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UVA Researchers Find New Hope For Cancer Treatment In Human Eggs

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When it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of certain cancers, doctors have few tools.  But a surprising discovery at the University of Virginia may lead to new tests and therapies.

Dr. John Herr is an expert on cell biology, and for many years he studied human eggs, hoping to develop new forms of birth control. In the course of that research, his University of Virginia team identified a protein on the surface of mature human eggs. At first, they thought, it was only found there, but later analysis showed this same protein is on the surface of certain tumor cell.

"Cancers, when they go awry, are reverting back and taking on characteristics of the mother cell — the egg," Herr says. "Uterine cancers, ovarian cancers, invasive bladder cancers, pancreatic cancers, renal cancers are showing this particular new drug target on their surfaces."

He calls the protein a "drug target," because scientists can now create medications that specifically bind to the protein and attack cancer cells, while sparing healthy tissue.

"Most chemotherapies target molecules that are common in many cell types. You know, hair falls out, you get nauseated, you get anemic," Herr says. "But a new target like this, that's only on the surface of the cancer offers us the possibility of only targeting the cancer and not the healthy tissues in the body."

To speed the development of those drugs and of screening tests for the protein, UVA is partnering with Pfizer and the Center for Innovative Technology in Northern Virginia. Prototype drugs have already been tested in the laboratory, and Herr believes they're about three years away from beginning the first tests on humans.

WAMU 88.5

The Music And Legacy Of Motown

Motown founder Berry Gordy and director Charles Randolph-Wright of “Motown the Musical" join Diane for a conversation about the history of Detroit's famous sound.

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Will Montgomery County Go "Bottoms Up" On Liquor Laws?

Since Prohibition, Montgomery County has held the purse strings on liquor sales, meaning the county sells every drink from beer to bourbon to local bars and restaurants. But local business owners are pushing back from this system, claiming it lacks efficiency and leaves customers waiting. County officials say they are holding out for alternatives that protect those within the industry. We discuss both sides of the issue today.

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Exelon's Chief Strategy Officer On Its Proposed Takeover Of Pepco

Kojo chats with Exelon's chief strategy officer about the company's vision for electric service in the Washington region, and its argument for why its acquisition of Pepco is in the best interest of customers.

WAMU 88.5

Computer Guys And Gal

Another year is coming to a close and the Computer Guys And Gal are here to discuss this year's biggest technology news, including the growth of virtual reality and the "Internet of Things."

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