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Scientist works to improve treatment for brain tumors

With a five-year, $1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, a Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center researcher will work to improve the effectiveness of a drug that he developed for the most deadly type of brain tumor.

Waldemar Debinski, M.D., Ph.D., pioneered a method to destroy cells of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) with less damage to healthy cells. The drug is currently being tested in clinical trials and Debinski is working on its fourth generation in the laboratory.

With the grant, Debinski will work to identify the best way to deliver the drugs to cancer cells for maximum effectiveness.

"Our goal is to prolong survival in these patients ?that's what we are fighting for," he said.

Currently, people with GBM have a median survival time of 12 to 14 months and a five-year survival rate of 1 percent to 5 percent.

The drug's development was based on Debinski's finding that glioblastoma cells over-express large amounts of a receptor for interleukin 13 (IL13), a protein that regulates the immune system. Debinski combined IL13 with a bacterial toxin to create a cytotoxin drug to target cancer cells and less healthy cells. The efficacy of the first generation of the drug has been has been tested in a clinical trial (phase III) involving 190 patients at 40 different medical centers worldwide. The results are expected later this year.

Since the development of the original drug, Debinski has learned more about the structure of IL13, its receptors, how the cytotoxin binds to it and how the biological properties of tumors may affect it. His goals in the current project are to improve the drug's design so it has better contact with the receptor and to determine the most effective toxin for killing glioblastoma cells, while leaving normal cells unharmed.

"Our aim is to identify the drug design that has the most potent anti-tumor efficacy," he said.

Debinski will also explore how cancer cells
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Source:Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center


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