A family of molecules known as the Wave Complex interact within our cells. Which molecular family members are present at any given time in the life of a cell determines how that cell will behave: how it gets nutrition, whether and how it moves, whether it remains stationery.
This complex appears to play a major role in the invasive types of breast cancer, says Leszek Kotula, PhD, associate professor of urology and biochemistry and molecular biology. Working on the theory that the Wave Complex could be a target for therapy are Kotula and two colleagues, Steve Landas, MD, professor of pathology and urology, and Mira Krendel, PhD, assistant professor of cell and developmental biology.
When they increase some specific molecules in the complex, the cancer spreads, Kotula says. He adds that by decreasing certain molecules, “we may actually stop metastasis, or greatly affect it.”
The next step will be to test the effects of existing cancer drugs on these molecules. Landas, a diagnostic pathologist for 35 years, sees the potential. “Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if we find ourselves in a situation where we can look at certain members of this family of molecules and know with a high degree of certainty which drugs will work and which will not?”
The protein, paxillin plays an important role in cell movement. What scientists are trying to determine is exactly how paxillin affects the movement of cancer cells away from a primary tumor, into the blood stream and on to colonize distant organs. It’s important to know because “If we can develop ways in which we can limit paxillin’s function, we may be able to block the process of metastasis,” says Christopher Turner, PhD, professor of cell and developmental biology.
Many of the drugs used to fight breast cancer tumors target microtubules, the proteins that makes up the cytoskeleton that helps cells maintain their shape and internal organization. These drugs create toxic side effects for patients.
“We found that the level of expression of paxillin in tumor cells may actually influence the microtubule cytoskeleton and, therefore, may influence how those drugs actually work in individual patients,” Turner says.
Nicholas Deakin, PhD, research assistant professor of cell and developmental biology, points out that the deaths of 95 percent of the 40,000 American women who die from breast cancer each year are linked to metastasis. “It’s not the tumor in the breast that really is the problem. It’s the ability of the cells to move away from there,” he explains. “If we can detect the tumors early, and if we can then treat them with a drug or know what drug to go with to stop their spread, then that’s going to greatly influence the survival of these patients.”
Turner and Deakin are among dozens of researchers who have received grants from the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of CNY since 2002.
Christopher Turner, PhD and Nicholas Deakin, PhD: Impact of Paxillin Expression on breast cancer drug efficacy[ 0.01 MB ]Play Now | Download
Targeted radiation therapy can be effective in reducing the size of a tumor, but it can leave bones more susceptible to fractures in the years after cancer.
Studying stem cells for possible solutions are Megan Oest, PhD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery, and Timothy Damron, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery, cell and developmental biology and neuroscience and physiology. Stem cells have the ability to develop into many different cell types, depending on the body’s needs.
Of the bone cells that are alive at the time of radiation, Oest and Damron have noticed that some die and are never replenished. They are experimenting with chemical or biological methods to prevent damage to these particular cells. Perhaps in the future, patients could receive an injection of a protective substance before undergoing radiotherapy.
It’s also possible, Oest theorizes, that patients could undergo something like a stem cell transplant after their therapy. Healthy cells could come from a donor, or from elsewhere in the patient’s body. She and Damron have learned that when radiation is applied to one leg, cells from the opposite leg remain undamaged. “In theory, if it worked, you could actually take cells from the healthy side of the patient and put them into the unhealthy side,” she says.
Oest and Damron are among dozens of researchers who have received grants from the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of CNYsince 2002.
Megan Oest, PhD: Radiotherapy-associated bone damage[ 0.01 MB ]Play Now | Download
Estrogen is crucial to human life for men and women, but once a woman enters menopause, excess estrogen can lead to breast cancer. Up to 80 percent of the breast cancers detected in women after menopause are triggered and proliferated by estrogen, explains Debashis Ghosh, PhD.
Ghosh, a professor of pharmacology, collaborates with Juntao Luo, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology, about ways to deliver new inhibitors of aromatase, the molecule that makes estrogen, to the tumor sites in animal breast cancer models. Having elucidated the molecular mechanism of how aromatase works, the Ghosh group has designed novel aromatase inhibitors, which are being tested in his lab.
“Some of our compounds have performed better, much better in breast cancer cells than the current drug, which is known as Aromasin or exemestane,” says Ghosh. The next step would be testing the compounds in laboratory animals.
Ghosh is one of dozens of Upstate researchers who have received grants from the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of CNY since 2002.
Debashis Ghosh, MSc, PhD: The promise of aromatase inhibitors in treatment of breast cancer[ 0.01 MB ]Play Now | Download
Oncologist Srinivas Vourganti, MD tells what you need to know about bladder cancer, the 4th leading cancer diagnosed in men – how it’s diagnosed, how it’s treated and what preventives and screenings are recommended. Vourganti is assistant professor of Urology at Upstate Medical University.
Dermatologist Ramsay Farah, MD, talks about the importance of sun protection, and the limited sunscreen options available in the U.S. He discusses recent efforts to speed up U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of several new products that contain more effective ingredients. Farah is an associate professor of Medicine and Pathology, and chief of Dermatology at Upstate Medical University. Watch the video: How much damage does one sunburn do?
Ramsay Farah, MD: Sun protection and efforts to speed up the FDA approval process[ 0.01 MB ]Play Now | Download
Oral surgeon Terrence Thines, DDS, explains the risk factors, symptoms and treatment options for oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat). Thines is professor and chief of service, division of dentistry at Upstate Medical University.
Terrence Thines, DDS: Oral Cancer: Are You at Risk?[ 0.01 MB ]Play Now | Download