Study focuses on potential lung cancer therapies

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Scientists from Marshall University, Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.along with colleagues at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, have completed a study that may eventually help lead to the development of new treatments for lung cancer.

Their results were published in the Feb. 15 issue of Cancer Research, the most frequently cited cancer journal in the world.

At Marshall, Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, worked on the study with her research team of Jamie Lau, Kathleen Brown and Brent Thornhill, and undergraduate students Cody Stover and Christopher McNees.

Researchers in Dasgupta’s lab explore how the various components of tobacco, especially nicotine, advance the progression of lung cancer.                                       

Dasgupta said this study focused on a specific type of lung cancer called bronchioalveolar carcinomas, or BACs, which are known to be associated with smoking. She and the other scientists working on the project looked at the cellular pathways through which nicotine—the addictive component in cigarettes—promotes the growth and survival of BACs. 

According to Dasgupta, nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, but studies have shown it can induce the growth and metastasis of lung cancers. It can also protect lung cancer cells against the beneficial effects of chemotherapy.

She said, “In this study, we found that nicotine raised the levels of specific neurotransmitters, or ‘chemical messengers,’ in human BACs. When we used a drug, vesamicol, to interrupt the neurotransmitters’ pathways, the nicotine-induced growth of these carcinomas was significantly suppressed. Our findings are important because they indicate that agents like vesamicol may be useful in the treatment of human lung cancers.” 

More information about the research is available online at http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/73/4/1328.abstract?sid=c29c4530-21a3-4652-a977-23b25019258a.

The study was funded in part by a Young Clinical Scientist Award from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute.

For more information, contact Dasgupta at dasgupta@marshall.edu or 304-696-3612.

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Drs. Hardman and Georgel highlighted by DoD Breast Cancer Research Program

Dr. Philippe Georgel and Dr. W. Elaine HardmanDr. Philippe Georgel and Dr. W. Elaine Hardman have received considerable publicity in the past few years over their receipt of a grant from the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program. Their most recent honor comes in being highlighted in the latest program book for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ (CDMRP) Breast Cancer Research Program. Their research, the result of a DoD FY09 Idea Expansion award, is entitled “Maternal Consumption of Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Prevent Breast Cancer in Offspring.”

In 1992, the CDMRP was created after breast cancer advocates were able to bring about congressional appropriation of funds dedicated to breast cancer research. The fund seeks to find a way to stamp out breast cancer through support of research that is innovative and has the potential of great impact in the understanding of breast cancer. The CDMRP has received more than $6.5 billion in appropriations since its creation. Receipt of the award comes after a two-tier review process consisting of participation between breast cancer survivors and research scientists. Award of the grant is based upon the relevance of the research to the goals of the program and the scientific merit of the proposed research.

The research of Drs. Hardman and Georgel is directed toward determining which gene expression changes in mice offspring are brought about by feeding pregnant mice a diet that includes canola oil (which contains omega-3) versus a diet that contains corn oil (a control). They then compare the mammary cancer rates of the offspring groups after they are exposed to a carcinogen. Results from their research already indicate differences in microRNA and epigenetic expression in the offspring, as well as changes in the expression of genes related to mammary tumorigenesis, including NF-kappaB.

Congratulations to Dr. Georgel and Dr. Hardman! To read the spotlight on their research in the CDMRP booklet (see page 19), please download the file through this link: http://cdmrp.army.mil/pubs/pips/bcpip.pdf.