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Anti-cancer drug discovery partnership formed between UMMC and Ole Miss
Date:5/17/2011

Cancer research has advanced to the point where scientists have identified most genes and gene mutations responsible for causing cancer. Those are the targets of drug developers.

"There are several hundred genes identified," Pasco said. "But they all belong to about 12 different signal-transduction pathways."

Blocking those pathways with specially designed drugs can essentially keep genes from switching on or off.

In Oxford, Pasco and his team finished screening about 30 plant extracts this spring. Those extracts are used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, some with proven anti-cancer properties.

The screenings assessed the activity of each extract along the dozen or so pathways. About 25 extracts showed activity on the majority of the signaling pathways.

Lest the process seem overly simple, think of each pathway as a struck piano key. The note alone may not be significant, but played in sequence with others, it can create an ominous concerto a tumor.

Shutting down the concerto requires blocking several pathways at once. Hence, identifying natural products capable of blocking multiple pathways could be a major step in our quest for better cancer drugs.

"Specific collections of these pathways are involved in the expression of cancer," Pasco said. "And there's a lot of crosstalk among those pathways. That's what makes cancer so difficult to treat."

Investigators will search the screening results for unique patterns of activity among the various signaling pathways.

"Once we find an interesting extract, we can tear it down further to get at the active compound," Pasco said.

Sometimes it's multiple compounds that work together in one extract to make it promising. Getting to the core of that scenario is one of the NPNPR specialties, Miele said.

Ultimately, by combining several compounds, scientists in the Drug Discovery Core hope to create pharmaceuticals t
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Contact: Jack Mazurak
jmazurak@umc.edu
601-984-1970
University of Mississippi Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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