Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

National Institute Tests Cancer Destroyer

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

National Institute Tests Cancer Destroyer

Article excerpt

It has taken nearly 12 years for Doris Benbrook to get her cancer- destroying compound to the clinical testing stage. The drug targets cancer cells, leaving other cells alone.

Benbrook, a molecular biologist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, joined the clinical department to learn what doctors are up against on a day-to-day basis to better focus her research in that direction.

Therefore, what began with a Vitamin A molecule that Benbrook tweaked until optimized, resulted in being able to take advantage of its anti-cancer activity while avoiding the toxicity associated with it.

A really promising drug has been developed right here in Oklahoma, Benbrook said.

Part of her work now is trying to understand how a normal cell becomes a cancer cell, which is where her studies began. Many drugs are fairly effective against cancer cells, but not as effective against ovarian cancer, she said, which is difficult to identify until it's in a much later stage.

Now (the new drug S-HetA2) has been potent against pretty much every cancer that we've tested it on - even head and neck cancer and leukemia, she said.

Benbrook and K. Darrell Berlin, a chemist at Oklahoma State University, are waiting while research labs test the drug.

The National Cancer Institute is spending $2 million to take the compound to the level of Investigational New Drug approval, which is the Food and Drug Administration's approval for clinical trial and the license necessary to start testing in humans, which she estimates should begin with the next two years. In about five years, Benbrook estimates S-HetA2 will be ready for market.

The patent on the drug was issued last year to OUHSC and OSU jointly.

The team tested the drug, which would be available in pill form, in a standard 60-cell line screen, which includes leukemia, lung, colon, central nervous system, melanoma, ovarian, renal, prostate and breast cancers.

It was effective against all of them, Benbrook said.

The drug induces a natural form of cell suicide called apoptosis.

Benbrook said her major focus now is to understand the molecular mechanism with which it is inducing apoptosis. …

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