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Jefferson researchers receive W.W. Smith Charitable Trust
Date:11/8/2010

PHILADELPHIA Molecular biologist Jonathan Brody, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Surgery; and Gregory E. Goney, Ph.D., research assistant professor, and member of the Daniel Baugh Institute for Functional Genomics/Computational Biology in the Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University have been awarded a W.W. Smith Charitable Trust medical research grant. This one-year grant awards $100,000 to their group to help support their innovative cancer research, and one of the questions they will address is why African-Americans respond poorly to common chemotherapeutic agents used to treat pancreatic cancer. Another question this grant will address is what genes in cancer cells are regulated upon stressful conditions such as chemotherapeutic treatments..

Dr. Brody will use the funding to build upon his research involving a stress-response protein called Hu antigen R (HuR), which helps pancreatic tumor cells survive. Previously, Dr. Brody and his team have identified the molecular mechanism by which HuR regulates gemcitabine (a commonly used drug used to treat this disease). Recently, the team has discovered a unique DNA sequence alteration that resides in the HuR-interacting site of deoxycytidine kinase, the gemcitabine activating enzyme. This one base pair sequence change, also known as a polymorphism (SNP), is highly prevalent in the African-American population (over 65 percent); it is considerably less common in the Caucasian population (5 percent). From preliminary data, this sequence change may explain why African Americans respond poorly to standard of care therapy of pancreatic cancer.

"Our early findings are very exciting. It's our hope that further validation and exploration of this particular polymorphism may ultimately result in a simple test that could improve therapy and outcomes for African Americans with this deadly disease," said Dr. Brody.

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Contact: Ed Federico
ed.federico@jefferson.edu
Thomas Jefferson University
Source:Eurekalert

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