Yunfeng Zhao, PHD, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Neuroscience has received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to test his hypothesis that the disruption of a cell function that converts food to energy, could contribute to cancer development. The disruption, called uncoupling, occurs in the cell’s mitochondria, when a protein deviates from the normal conversion process.
Dr. Zhao was awarded a two-year R21 grant of nearly $350,000 for the two-year study, which could lead to new treatments for cancer.
The research will expand on previous studies by Dr. Zhao’s research team, in which they observed the uncoupling process during the formation of skin cancer. A gene known to stop tumor formation, called p53, was suppressed during the uncoupling process and Dr. Zhao’s team hope further testing will prove that is how the process helps tumors to form.
The scientists will also test a topical solution made from a natural compound in gardenias to see if it can prevent skin tumors. The compound has been shown to inhibit proteins that cause the uncoupling process. Scientists believe these proteins, known for their role in obesity, may contribute to colon and breast cancer, Dr. Zhao said.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number 1R21CA164218-01A1.