Aug. 19--RALEIGH -- Longtime friends Ken Adler of N.C. State University and Reen
Wu of the University of California-Davis have teamed up to forge a cross-country
collaboration to fight cancer.
Using a drug developed by Adler, the team was able to stop the spread of lung
cancer, or metastasis, in mice.
"This could be a breakthrough type of treatment," Adler said of the work, which
was published Monday in the journal Oncogene.
Adler, a professor of cell biology in the College of Veterinary Medicine,
originally developed the drug, a small compound similar to a protein called a
peptide, to stop inflammation from spreading in patients with other lung
problems such as asthma or chronic bronchitis.
Wu, familiar with Adler's work, thought the same mechanism could keep cancer
cells from spreading.
After Wu tested the peptide on human cancer cells last fall, he called Adler,
who remembered Wu's reaction: " 'Wow. We've never seen anything like this. It
stops them moving completely.' "
The peptide inactivates the main cable inside of cells, called actin, which
directs cell movement, Wu said. Inactivating actin prevents it from anchoring to
the cell wall and keeps cells from moving.
"It's a very interesting idea," said Dr. Norman Sharpless, deputy director for
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. "I think the science behind it is
The cancer center is now working with Adler and Wu to test their drug on mice
that are genetically programmed to develop cancer. These mice develop cancers
that are very similar to those seen in humans, allowing researchers to better
predict the drug's potential for human treatment, Sharpless said.
The center, which collaborates with researchers from more than 50 different
universities and pharmaceutical companies, will also see if the team's drug
effectively stops the spread of other types of cancer, such as breast cancer and
Since the drug is already partway through human trials for the treatment of lung
inflammation, Adler and Wu are optimistic that the pathway to treating cancer
patients could be faster than usual.
The successful bi-coastal collaboration between Adler and Wu was founded on more
than three decades of friendship. In fact, this weekend Wu will travel to North
Carolina to attend Adler's wedding.
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