By Wendy Sarubbi | January 9, 2017 7:59 am

Saturday’s second AutoNation Cure Bowl raised $1.15 million for breast cancer research, including $250,000 for College of Medicine scientist Dr. Annette Khaled’s work to stop metastatic cancer cells in their tracks.

The game pitted UCF’s Knights against Arkansas State, with the Red Wolves winning 31-13 before about 30,000 fans at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

The Cure Bowl is the only NCAA football bowl game with a charity in its name and proceeds of the event support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), the largest private funder of breast cancer research worldwide.

Myra Biblowit, president and CEO of BCRF joined Dr. Khaled, College of Medicine Dean Dr. Deborah German, Cure Bowl and AutoNation leaders in accepting a giant check on the field during the game. As fans cheered, she touched the check, pumped her fist and said, “Amazing. Cure On!”

Dr. Khaled is one of just five researchers in Florida to get BCRF funding and before Saturday’s game had received about $650,000 from the Cure Bowl for her work at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. “We’re going to play football and beat cancer at the same time,” she said as the game began. “There couldn’t be a better combination.”

Dr. Khaled’s lab has discovered a way to kill spreading breast cancer cells and her new technology has generated a licensing agreement that will accelerate the therapy’s path to clinical trials.

Metastatic cancer cells that spread from the original tumor to the brain, lungs and bones are the leading cause of death for most cancer patients. In 2012 Dr. Khaled discovered the peptide CT20, which kills fleeing cells by disrupting the folding mechanism inside cancer cells mediated by a chaperonin. If the inner workings of the cell can’t fold into 3D units, the cell dies.

As part of the research, Dr. J. Manuel Perez, a former UCF researcher who specializes in chemistry and nanotechnology, developed nanoparticles to transport the peptide specifically to metastatic cancer cells.

The next step in the research is to put the therapy into preclinical testing and clinical trials. SEVA Therapeutics Inc., a Massachusetts-based pre-clinical biotechnology company, recently licensed the nanoparticle-peptide combo. It is expected to undergo a comprehensive safety evaluation that if successful could lead to clinical testing in patients in 2018.

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