WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

UVA Researchers Find New Hope For Cancer Treatment In Human Eggs

Play associated audio

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

Bill Cunningham, Iconic 'New York Times' Photographer, Dies At 87

Cunningham worked at the Times for almost 40 years, capturing the fashion trends of the day with a timeless eye.
NPR

With A Zap, Scientists Create Low-Fat Chocolate

Scientists say they've figured out how to reduce the fat in milk chocolate by running it through an electric field. The result is healthier, but is it tastier?
NPR

Tracing The 43-Year History Of The U.K. In The European Union

The U.K. joined the European Union in 1973, hoping to gain from the booming economies on the continent. Historian Timothy Garton Ash explains the reasons why, and how the relationship soured.
NPR

President Obama Acknowledges 'Brexit' To Silicon Valley Crowd

President Obama delivered a speech Friday at Stanford University, and remarked on the Brexit vote in front of a crowd of young, tech-forward, pro-globalization attendees from 170 countries.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.