cell being attacked

Stemming the spread of cancer

cell being attacked

Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Eraxion

Scientists at UT Health San Antonio and UTHealth in Houston were awarded $6 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Defense to expand studies of a therapeutic antibody.

The antibody-based drug would be used to stem the spread of breast cancer to bone. This spread, called metastasis, is linked to a dramatic reduction in survival rates.

The lead principal investigator is Jean Jiang, Ph.D., an Ashbel Smith Professor at UT Health San Antonio and the associate director of the Joint Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program of UT Health San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio.

“Antibodies are part of the body’s natural defenses and can be optimized to perform specific tasks,” Dr. Jiang said. “In this case, an antibody activates the connexin channels in bone cells, which protects skeletal tissue from breast cancer colonization and invasion.”

UT Health San Antonio received $3.2 million for preclinical testing in the joint project.

“Research from my laboratory shows the functional role of these channels in suppressing breast cancer invasion and bone metastases. This provides a potential therapeutic target for drug development in breast cancer,” said Dr. Jiang, professor of biochemistry and structural biology.

McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston received $2.8 million for drug development. 

The researchers hope to develop a less toxic treatment and reduce deaths tied to the spread of breast cancer to the bone. At the end of the study, they would like to have a drug that can advance to clinical trials.

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