Surgical oncologist receives grant further explore tumor suppressor function of mutated gene

Darren Carpizo, MD, PhD, a surgical oncologist in the Liver Cancer and Bile Duct Cancer Care Program at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research to further explore the effects of a compound identified in his laboratory found to restore tumor suppressor function of a mutated gene in cancer cells. Dr. Carpizo, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, is one of 15 investigators nationwide selected to receive the Kimmel Scholar Award out of more than 160 applicants.

The current trend in research of new anti-cancer drugs is to identify the genes that are most important to disable in a cancer cell and then find a drug that will disable these genes. The loss of tumor suppressor function in the p53 gene in cancer is a principal mechanism behind a normal cell becoming cancerous and one of the reasons why p53 is the most commonly mutated gene in human cancer. Restoring the tumor suppressor function of p53 in a cancer cell causes cancer cells to die, underlying the importance of finding a drug that will aid in that restoration.

Carpizo's laboratory recently identified a drug compound that restores the tumor suppressor function of mutated p53 and serves as a lead agent in developing anti-cancer drugs targeted toward this particular mutation. As part of the team's previous research, it was demonstrated that this compound selectively kills cancer cells containing a specific type of p53 mutation while leaving normal cells undisturbed.

"I am honored to receive this award from the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Foundation, as it will enable our team to continue investigation of this compound to understand the molecular mechanism that this drug uses to produce this effect. Understanding the mechanism of action of a new anti-cancer agent is an essential step in the drug development process to produce a drug that can be used in patients," noted Carpizo. Carpizo and colleagues also will study several other compounds that are chemically related to determine if they can perform a similar function.

The award period begins July 1.


Cancer Institute of New Jersey


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