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U of L researchers discover drug that fights cancer cells, not healthy cells

Dr. Paula Bates, Brown Cancer Center

"Our aim in this lab is to look for new medicines for cancer, more specific so they fight cancer cells but leave healthy cells alone…"

Dr. Paula Bates is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville. Her research team at the Brown Cancer Center works on a chemotherapy drug that specifically targets cancer cells.

Bates continues

"…Normal cells don't have this protein on the surface so they don't take in the drug."

The aptamer drug is being tested in kidney and lung cancer. Bates collaborates with Dr. John Trent. Trent uses specific computer programs to study the structure of the drug. This is a major part of figuring out the mechanism for how they believe the drug, which is synthetic DNA, works.

Bates adds

"In structure it's the same as natural DNA, this is a very short fragment of DNA that folds up into an unusual structure and that's how it works. It recognizes a specific protein."

Bates and Trent work with Brown Cancer Center Director Donald Miller, who finds ways to develop the drug clinically. Bates says a completed phase one clinical trial is yielding promising results. She says the drug is active against many cancer cells and has the potential to be active against a large number of cancers. However, she adds there is a long way to go before they know the certainty of the drug's effectiveness.

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