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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.

NPR

Opulent And Apolitical: The Art Of The Met's Islamic Galleries

Navina Haidar, an Islamic art curator at the Met, says she isn't interested in ideology: "The only place where we allow ourselves any passion is in the artistic joy ... of something that's beautiful."
NPR

Tired Of The Seoul-Sucking Rat Race, Koreans Flock To Farming

More than 80 percent of people in South Korea live in cities. But in the past few years, there has been a shift. Tens of thousands of South Koreans are relocating to the countryside each year.
WAMU 88.5

Fannie Lou Hamer and the Fight for Voting Rights

Kojo explores the life and legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer, a poor Mississippi sharecropper who became an outspoken voice in the civil rights movement and the fight for voting rights.

WAMU 88.5

Computer Guys and Gal

Chrysler recalls cars to boost their cybersecurity. Microsoft debuts its new Windows 10 operating system. And navigation tech could bring us robotic lawn mowers. The Computer Guys and Gal explain.

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