Baylor Scientists Expand Cancer Treatment Research

  • News Photo 4095
  • News Photo 4096
May 9, 2007

Two Baylor University researchers have been awarded several significant grants from OXiGENE Inc., an international biopharmaceutical company, to continue and greatly expand their research into new cancer fighting compounds.

The four grants will allow Dr. Kevin Pinney, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Baylor, and Dr. Mary Lynn Trawick, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Baylor, to design, create and test dozens of potential new cancer fighting compounds that disrupt solid cancer tumors and target any remaining tumor cells that may grow after the tumor is treated.

"OXiGENE greatly values its continued collaboration with Baylor," said Dr. Dai Chaplin, Chief Scientific Officer at OXiGENE. "This program has centered on the development of novel therapeutics for cancer treatment and we have recently extended this work to include not only synthesis but initial biological testing of these agents. We feel that this is a great example of a successful industry-academic relationship and we look forward to continuing this relationship in the future."

The bulk of the grants will fund Pinney's research into two main kinds of tumor-starving compounds, an area he has worked on extensively with OXiGENE resulting in several patents. One expansion will be into new bioreductive compounds that take advantage of the lack of oxygen in the tumor. These compounds damage the tumor's DNA, so the tumor can not divide effectively.

The second research expansion will be into compounds that are a new type of Vascular Disrupting Agent. VDAs target the flow of blood to solid cancer tumors and other abnormal blood vessels while leaving healthy cells intact. Pinney said his research team will focus on creating VDAs that not only target the flow of blood to the tumor, but also the viable rim of tumor cells that usually remain after a tumor has been treated.

"Initial studies suggest that you can essentially destroy the core of the tumor, but if any tumor cells remain on the edge, the tumor can grow back." Pinney said. "Our idea is to create a compound that has a second mechanism that will treat those remaining cells."

Once researchers design and create these compounds, Trawick and her research team will then evaluate each compound on its effectiveness against a variety of different cancer lines. Additionally, Pinney and Trawick along with their team members will focus on designing and creating a compound that acts as an inhibitor to HIF-1 Alpha, a protein in the body that allows cells to survive in low oxygen levels. Tumor cells, because of their rapid growth and limited blood supply, are associated with elevated HIF-1 Alpha levels.

"An inhibitor of HIF-1 Alpha may lead to the death of rapidly growing tumor cells in a selective manner," Trawick said. "We also will be testing the ability of other compounds to block the action of enzymes released by cancer cells that allow the cancer cells to spread."

Researchers hope to have initial results within the next two years.

Media contact: Frank Raczkiewicz, (254) 710-1964.

About OXiGENE, Inc.

Based in Waltham, Mass., OXiGENE is an emerging pharmaceutical company developing novel small-molecule therapeutics to treat cancer and eye diseases. The company's major focus is the clinical advancement of drug candidates that selectively disrupt abnormal blood vessels associated with solid tumor progression and visual impairment. OXiGENE is dedicated to leveraging its intellectual property position and therapeutic development expertise to bring life saving and enhancing medicines to patients.

Looking for more news from Baylor University?