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Wistar receives $4.7 million to develop drug against Epstein-Barr virus-related cancers
Date:12/15/2011

The Wistar Institute today announced that it has signed a funding agreement with the Wellcome Trust, a United Kingdom-based charity, to support the development of a new drug to treat cancers associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The Seeding Drug Discovery Award of up to $4.7 million will support on-going translational research in the laboratory of Wistar Professor Paul M. Lieberman, Ph.D. If successful, the new therapeutic could be the first to treat EBV-related cancer by attacking the virus as it remains dormant in a patient's cells.

The project is a three-year, multi-stage effort where funding is based on the achievement of defined research milestones, outlined by Lieberman and Troy Messick, Ph.D., a staff scientist in the Lieberman laboratory and co-leader on the project.

"On behalf of The Wistar Institute, I would like to thank the Wellcome Trust for seeing the potential for this project to save countless lives across the globe," said Russel E. Kaufman, M.D., CEO and president of The Wistar Institute. "This effort reflects translational research at its finest by combining a visionary charitable foundation, a promising line of research, and a solid plan for transforming basic science into practical medicine."

Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is classified by the World Health Organization as a Class I carcinogen, and it is estimated to cause a small but significant portion of all human cancers. The virus may persist in the human body for decades and cause infected cells to become cancerous. It is estimated that EBV causes nearly 400,000 cases of cancer each year, including Burkitt's lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, gastric carcinoma and certain oral and throat cancers.

According to Lieberman, EBNA1, a protein produced by EBV, is a prime target for therapeutic intervention. The protein acts as the master switch that regulates viral gene activity and guides the ability of EBV to remain dormant in the body.

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Contact: Greg Lester
glester@wistar.org
215-898-3943
The Wistar Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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Wistar receives $4.7 million to develop drug against Epstein-Barr virus-related cancers
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