By | August 20, 2010 12:00 am

Possible Canadian Partnership between Canada, Burnett School

Dr. James Turkson, associate professor at the UCF College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Science, recently met with Canadian scientists to explore a partnership that could help develop treatments for breast cancer. In July, Dr. Turkson met with scientists at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research to discuss how the large institute might help analyze the portfolio of anti-cancer compounds. Dr. Turkson has developed and will help in the advanced pre-clinical preparation of those compounds.

Dr. Turkson’s research focuses on the Stat3 protein that is found in the human body and is used in the development of the embryo, wound healing and immune responses. In normal situations, the protein remains quiet until the body needs it. But Dr. Turkson’s research has shown that Stat3 can go haywire, become abnormally active and cause the formation of breast, colon, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancers. In the past year, Dr. Turkson’s team, in collaboration with a chemist, Dr. Patrick Gunning of the University of Toronto, developed a chemical compound in the lab called BP-1-102 that inhibits the growth of breast cancer tumors by deactivating the Stat3 protein in breast tumor cells. The exciting news is that the drug works fantastically in very small doses to inhibit breast cancer, meaning it will be less toxic to the patient.

The next step is to do an in-depth analysis of the compound that would include determining how it travels through the body, how it affects various organs and how long it remains in the body. Such analysis is necessary before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will authorize clinical trials.

“The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research had heard a great deal about our research and was very interested in collaborating,” Dr. Turkson said. “They were very excited about our initial results.” The UCF Office of Research and Commercialization is now working to finalize a partnership agreement with the Canadian institute.

Dr. Turkson completed his bachelor’s in Biochemistry with honors from the University of Ghana and his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Before coming to the Burnett school in 2005, he was a researcher and assistant professor at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa. During his time at UCF, Dr. Turkson’s research has attracted more than $2.36 million in federal funds. He has been published in more than 45 peer-reviewed articles in top-tier national and international journals.

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