Grants Helping Fund Cancer Research at UT Dallas
Nov. 3, 2011
UT Dallas researchers in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science have been awarded more than $2.8 million in three grants for cancer research from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The researchers will collaborate on these three grants with peers at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Two of the grants are funding research into ways to characterize and disrupt a specific protein that is associated with aggressive breast cancer. The protein, called HER2, is present in up to 20 percent of breast cancers.
Dr. Raimund Ober, UT Dallas electrical engineering professor who holds a joint appointment at UT Southwestern, is the primary investigator on the first grant totaling $1.02 million. Ober and his colleagues will work to analyze how HER2 is distributed, and how anti-cancer therapies alter this distribution, in cancer cells.
“For our part, we have been developing new microscopy technologies for many years, and can use this imaging to better study biological processes,” Ober said. “The prime application of this research relates to developing new therapies for treatment of breast cancer.”
Currently, there are medicines used to treat HER2-positive breast cancers, but their efficacy varies and can diminish over time.
“We want to determine why HER2-directed therapies are not effective some of the time and uncover the underlying mechanisms that make the drugs work in some cases and not in others,” Ober said.
Investigating HER2 behavior could help researchers develop new, improved cancer treatments.
The second grant, totaling $1.4 million, will look at ways of overcoming the deficiencies of current therapy by pinpointing new strategies of attacking HER2. These include removing the receptors from the cell surface.
The third related study includes $1.4 million in funding for a cancer-related project as part of a multi-investigator award (MIRA), totaling more than $5.9 million. Its aim is to develop ways of restricting the blood supply to a tumor and killing tumor cells themselves by targeting a molecule called phosphatidylserine (PS). Dr. Ober’s project will involve the use of microscopy to understand how PS behaves in response to drug treatment, and will include an analysis of how target cells are killed by immune cells. This project has relevance to tumors of many kinds that include breast, lung, prostate, liver and brain cancer.
On all three projects, Ober is working in conjunction UT Southwestern faculty including Dr. E. Sally Ward, professor of immunology; Dr. Philip Thorpe, professor of pharmacology; and Dr. Ralph Mason, professor of radiology.