UNCW researchers finding new ways to fight breast cancer

Two scientists at the University of North Carolina Wilmington are doing life-changing research to create a new treatment for breast cancer. 

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Two scientists at the University of North Carolina Wilmington are doing life-changing research to create a new treatment for breast cancer.

For people diagnosed with cancer, many choose to go through chemotherapy to treat it. Some side effects of this treatment include hair loss, nausea, neuropathy, and even secondary types of cancer.

“So those are the things that we are trying to fix by making new compounds which can go preferentially to cancer cells and when they get into cancer cells, they will also cause the kind of DNA damage that will kill the cell but it won’t cause mutation. So even if it went to a normal cell, it won’t cause the mutation it won’t lead to secondary cancer,” Dr. Sridhar Varadarajan said.

After nearly two decades of research, UNCW Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Dr. Sridhar Varadarajan and his students have created a compound that kills cancer cells.

“This is a really comprehensive project,” Graduate Student Caprice McNeely said. “I think a lot of graduate students get to be involved in like one piece of a thing and this lab has been a really unique experience because we’re involved just not in the chemistry side of things but we also get to take this drug through some of the biological testings.”

After preparing the compounds, McNeely carries them down to the biology lab to test them on the cells grown by Dr. Arthur Frampton and his students. The research has proved successful in the lab. The next step is testing on animals.

“In our Petri dishes, the cells were there and our compound was there, but that is the biggest challenge it to achieve selectivity,” Dr. Varadarajan said. “Now we have to work with formulating the compound to see how it survives the rest of the defenses the body has so it can get to the breast cancer and treat the breast cancer cells.”

Dr. Varadarajan credits the success of the research to the collaboration of different departments and the work of his students. He says students in his lab will certainly be doing more than washing glassware.

“I sit in my office, I think of these ideas, I train the students, but they are the ones that actually do this research so we need them in our labs and I think things like this can only increase the number of students doing research,” Dr. Varadarajan said.

While the breast cancer compound has been the most successful, a compound to treat prostate cancer is in the works and the research looks promising. The breast cancer study will go into the next phase after the professors hopefully are approved for a grant to conduct the animal studies. The scientists have applied for a grant and the process should take about a year and a half.

Categories: Local, New Hanover, New Hanover, Top Stories