By Wendy Sarubbi | April 15, 2011 1:42 pm

Dr. James Turkson, associate professor at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, is the 2010-2011 winner of the UCF Research Incentive Award (RIA) honoring excellence in research.

“Dr. Turkson has done an outstanding job of bringing national recognition to our programs and is truly deserving of this special honor,” said Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the UCF College of Medicine.

Dr. Turkson’s specialty is cancer and he is researching the role of the protein Stat3 in cancerous tumors of the breast, lung, pancreas and ovaries. Stat3 normally helps in the development of the embryo, wound healing and immune responses. But Dr. Turkson’s research has shown that Stat3 can go haywire, become hyperactive and cause the formation and spread of cancer cells.

In the past year, Dr. Turkson’s team developed a chemical compound in the lab called BP-1-102 that deactivates the hyperactive Stat3 protein in breast and lung tumor cells. Without hyperactive Stat3, the tumor cells stop growing, fail to get adequate oxygen and nutrients and die. The exciting news is that the chemical compound works fantastically in very small doses to inhibit the growth of breast and lung cancers, meaning it will be less toxic to the patient.

In conjunction with that research, UCF and the Moffitt Cancer Center recently signed a licensing agreement with a Florida biotech firm in Tampa to test another one of Dr. Turkson’s Stat3-fighting compounds in preparation for possible clinical trials.

“I am humbled to receive this Research Incentive Award because I truly believe there are others in our college who also have worked hard and who continue to do so toward our common goal,” Dr. Turkson said.

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