July 2001

From Virginia Tech

Research funded to test new breast cancer medicine

BLACKSBURG, Va., July 9, 2001 — Virginia Tech researchers in human nutrition and dairy science are beginning animal trials to test a new compound against breast cancer, thanks to a grant from Virginia’s Commonwealth Health Research Board (CHRB).

Barbara Davis, an assistant professor in human nutrition, foods, and exercise, is the lead investigator in a research project that will test the novel Schiff base-forming drug, which is known to strengthen the immune system -- an important mechanism for fighting cancer. Research from Davis’ lab has shown that this drug can kill breast cancer cells growing outside the body, without the help of the immune system.

Davis has already reported that a molecule of similar structure, vitamin B6, is effective at killing breast cancer cells, but the drug she is now testing can safely be used in humans at higher doses than B6 and therefore may represent a better breast cancer treatment option.

In collaboration with Mike Akers, the Alphin Professor of Dairy Science at Virginia Tech, and Prakash Nagarkatti, a researcher at the Medical College of Virginia, Davis will treat breast cancer in two types of mice, those with normal and those with weakened immune systems.

These experiments will help determine the involvement of the immune system in the cancer-killing ability of this drug. More importantly, they will show whether it is effective in treating breast cancer in the body.

The project is especially significant to Virginians, because mortality from breast cancer in Virginia is higher than the national average, although the incidence of breast cancer is below the national average, said Davis.

The CHRB was established in 1997. It’s funding is derived from stock and cash received by the state from the conversion of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Virginia from a mutual insurance company to a stock corporation, now known as Trigon. The grants are included in $825,000 released this month to faculty members at the state’s colleges and universities.











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