In aggressive cancers such as mesothelioma, drug resistance leads to treatment failure and bleak survival rates for about 85 percent of patients.
But not for long, if Mark Grinstaff has anything to do with it.
Grinstaff, a professor of chemistry and biomedical engineering, was awarded a National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute grant to study the development of a combination therapy that would tackle drug resistance in cancer.
In Grinstaff’s sights: mesothelioma, a rare and extremely lethal cancer that afflicts about 3,000 people in the United States annually, according to the American Lung Association. Five-year survival rates for patients are dismal at less than 15 percent. The $2.7 million grant means a multidisciplinary team of researchers and physicians will work on an innovative therapy that uses an epigenetic modifying agent—affecting how cells read genes—in combination with traditional chemotherapeutic agents to treat mesothelioma. In other words, Grinstaff plans to wake dormant tumor-suppressor genes.
“We have an exciting opportunity to discover a new mechanism for killing cancer cells, and to apply our findings to real challenges in the clinic.”
The five-year grant brings together teams of researchers at Boston University, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Augusta University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Mycosynthetix, Inc. Working across boundaries is nothing new for Grinstaff. For almost 15 years, his Grinstaff Group, a lab with more than 20 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, has been combining members’ expertise in chemistry, pharmacology, and biomedical and mechanical engineering to tackle complicated medical challenges.
“We have an exciting opportunity to discover a new mechanism for killing cancer cells,” Grinstaff says, “and to apply our findings to real challenges in the clinic.”