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UB lands $1.8M grant to test new seek-and-destroy cancer treatment

The five-year grant will support research that aims to use an untested method of delivering antibodies to target colon cancer cells that, if effective, could be applied to nearly any type of cancer. Photo: Douglas Levere

Release Date: January 30, 2017

“If our work is successful, we may be able to move forward to develop a panel of treatments, providing increased safety and efficacy for many cancer patients.”
Joseph Balthasar, PhD, professor and associate dean for research in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo has received a $1.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to test new strategies for improving the delivery of potent toxins to cancer cells.

The five-year grant will support research that aims to use an untested method of delivering antibodies to target colon cancer cells that, if effective, could be applied to nearly any type of cancer.

The study, “Catch and Release Immunotoxins: CAR-Bombs for Cancer,” is led by Joseph Balthasar, PhD, professor and associate dean for research in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“The strategy that we are pursuing is a ‘platform approach’ that may be applied to many different types of cancer,” says Balthasar, also director of the UB Center for Protein Therapeutics.

“If our work is successful, we may be able to move forward to develop a panel of treatments, providing increased safety and efficacy for many cancer patients.”

Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. Roughly 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed last year in the U.S., and nearly 40 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime, according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute.

Although advances have been made in the treatment of cancer with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, there is a critical need to develop novel approaches with promise for improved selectivity, potency and efficacy, says Balthasar.

Balthasar will test a new treatment strategy that employs “catch-and-release” antibodies that are bound to powerful toxins and cell-penetrating peptides. These molecules target and bind to cancer cells, allowing for the efficient release of toxins into the cell’s cytoplasm – the fluid that fills a cell.

Preliminary data gathered to access the binding, toxicity and pharmacokinetics – how the body affects a drug – of the antibody support the feasibility of the method as a viable form of treatment, says Balthasar.

A portion of the grant will provide $100,000 to fund sub-contract work that will be completed by Gaurav Sahay, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacy at Oregon State University. The remaining work will be completed within the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Additional UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences investigators include Juliane Nguyen, PharmD, PhD, assistant professor; Sathy Balu-Iyer, PhD, professor; and Jun Qu, PhD, associate professor. Wilfrido Mojica, MD, assistant professor in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, will also assist with the assessment of toxicity.

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