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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > St. Lucie County

Harbor Branch scientist awarded grant to study pancreatic cancer 
Rating: 4.33 / 5 (15 votes)  
Posted: 2013 Apr 19 - 07:20

For Hometown News

FORT PIERCE -- Scientists at FAU's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute have been awarded a grant of $345,716 by the National Institutes of Health to identify marine natural products for their potential use in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The principal investigator for this award is Esther Guzmán, Ph.D., along with co-investigator Amy Wright, Ph.D.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with a five-year survival rate of only 6 percent. Ms. Guzmán and Ms. Wright will initiate a screening effort with this grant to discover inhibitors of the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) in pancreatic cancer cells using HBOI's unique library of marine natural products. RAGE has emerged as an important regulator of inflammatory, stress and cell survival pathways, which contribute to the aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer.

"To identify potential treatments for pancreatic cancer, we are looking beyond compounds that directly kill cancer cells to compounds that can change key processes that have gone awry inside the cancer cells or that alter the microenvironment surrounding the tumor, both of which can facilitate tumor initiation and disease progression," said Ms. Guzmán. "Chronic inflammation creates a microenvironment that is conducive to cancer formation. RAGE has recently been shown to be a key factor in driving the inflammatory process in pancreatic cancer cells and discovery of inhibitors that block its action may provide new therapeutic options. We hope that inhibitors of RAGE will not only have the ability to fight pancreatic cancer but may also be used to prevent it from ever developing."

Ms. Guzmán and Ms. Wright are members of the Marine Biomedical and Biotechnology Research Program at HBOI, working to discover marine natural products that can be used as medicines or as tools to better understand the molecular basis of disease. They have identified more than 100 marine natural products with cancer fighting properties.

They are co-inventors on a U.S. patent that was awarded last year covering the potential use of manzamine A, a natural product isolated from a marine sponge, as a treatment in pancreatic cancer. Manzamine A is not a potent killer of pancreatic cancer cells, but its anti-tumor properties stem from its ability to change the tumor microenvironment and the signaling pathways of the cancer cells.

Ms. Wright serves as the director of the multidisciplinary Florida Center of Excellence in Biomedical and Marine Biotechnology. This center brings together groups with established expertise in marine biotechnology, functional genomics and bioinformatics in a synergistic fashion with the overall goal of discovering and developing new medicines and transferring new technology related to marine drug discovery to the industrial sector.

For more information, contact Carin Campbell Smith at (772) 242-2230 or carinsmith@fau.edu, or visit www.cebmb.info/.

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