OMRF researchers seeking clues to a variety of cancers
Cancer has many faces and can present itself at almost any location in the body. Scientists at OMRF are studying a wide variety of cancers in hopes of finding ways to treat or prevent them.
Starting at the top
Dr. Robert Floyd’s most recent work centers around a class of chemicals called nitrones. Working with Dr. Rheal Towner, director of OMRF’s Advanced Magnetic Resonance Center, Floyd has hit upon compounds that show extraordinary promise in fighting brain and liver cancers.
Most recently, he and Towner have found in lab tests that gliomas can be halted and shrunk with the use of a nitrone, with some eventually disappearing.
“In rats, we’ve seen dramatic effects on the same kind of tumor that Senator Kennedy has,” said Floyd, who holds the Merrick Foundation Chair in Aging Research at OMRF. “If the drug worked the same way in humans, it would, at a minimum, extend lives. And if it worked really well, it might suppress the tumors indefinitely.”
Screening for genes
A discovery in Dr. Linda Thompson’s lab led to the founding of a company called InterGenetics and the development of OncoVue, the world’s first genetic-based risk assessment test for breast cancer.
The impetus for the test came when it was discovered that women with breast cancer were more likely to have a particular form of a gene being studied in Thompson’s lab. Based on that finding, InterGenetics researchers began looking for more genes to help identify the risk of breast cancer in women. Today, OncoVue is being used by physicians to warn their patients of their risk of developing breast cancer. Thompson now holds the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research.
In Dr. Paul Kincade’s lab, immunologists are studying the ways in which the immune system makes mistakes during replication, causing lymphomas, leukemia and myelomas.
“Whenever you have cells that are proliferating, they can make mistakes and cause mutations – a lot can go wrong,” said Kincade, who holds the William H. and Rita Bell Chair in Biomedical Research.
“The normal function of blood cells is to grow up, leave the bone marrow, do their job and then die and be replaced by new blood cells,” he said. “But in leukemia, the blood cells get stuck at an abnormal stage. Then they produce a ton of copies of those abnormal cells, pushing fully functional cells out of the way.”
By better understanding the immune system and the way it constantly replenishes itself, Kincade hopes to pinpoint the cause of immune-related cancers.
And the search goes on
It’s true. Cancer remains high on the list of least-wanted diseases. And cancer still strikes nearly half the people in our country. But it no longer carries an automatic death sentence, thanks to all that scientists have learned about it in recent years.
More and more cancers are better understood and highly treatable these days. OMRF researchers hope to make that list grow, and with your support and a little time, they will succeed.