The National Institutes of Health has awarded two Baylor University researchers a $1.46 million grant to research and test new compounds that could help fight cancerous tumors.
The grant will allow Dr. Kevin G. Pinney, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Mary Lynn Trawick, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to design, create and test several new potential new cancer fighting compounds that may disrupt solid-cancer tumors and target any remaining tumor cells that may grow after the tumor is treated. The work will be done in collaboration with University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who will serve as a subcontract on the grant award.
"We are one of the few programs in the world working with these particular compounds and with the collaboration with UT Southwestern, I think this research project was very attractive to NIH," Pinney said. "This project will give us some deeper insight into these compounds that, in the future, might lead to clinical trials."
In the first phase of the research, Pinney and Trawick will test three new compounds known as Vascular Disrupting Agents (VDA) that have shown promise in preliminary tests. An emerging area of cancer treatment still in the experimental phase, VDAs target the flow of blood to solid cancer tumors and other abnormal blood vessels while leaving healthy cells intact. The researchers will test these three compounds to see how tolerable they are in animal models and how well the compounds actually disrupt blood flow to the tumor.
The second phase will consist of designing, creating and testing a carefully selected small group of potential new cancer fighting compounds that may disrupt solid-cancer tumors. The Baylor researchers said the main point of emphasis will be on the mechanism of action of the new compounds. Pinney and his research team will be involved with the synthesis and purification of the new potential anticancer VDAs, while Trawick and her research team will evaluate the biochemistry and cell biology.
Finally, the third phase will look into the cell mechanisms of each of the new compounds. The Baylor researchers said many questions remain unanswered, to date, in regard to how VDAs actually function on a molecular level in terms of cell signaling pathways. The study will look at several of these mechanistic questions.
"We will be comparing and studying the cells and proteins to see just how potent they are to cancer which could eventually lead to new drug discovery," Trawick said. "We are looking at selectivity - how do they disrupt cancer tumors and how well do they do it."
The study will take about five years to complete.