Curiosity can create cures
Why basic science is important to cancer
BY AMBER SMITH
Did you know that studying toe hairs of the gecko inspired the design of medical adhesives that are now used on delicate human skin?
Or that understanding how a specific protein repairs damaged DNA led to the development of a drug that blocks the repair process in cancer cells, effectively killing those cancer cells?
Or that a drug used today to treat testicular, ovarian and bladder cancers was discovered only after a researcher noticed bacteria were not dividing normally in his experiments on the effect of electrical fields on bacteria? He traced the cause to platinum compounds that formed when electrodes made contact with the liquid containing bacteria, then tested a range of compounds containing platinum to discover that cisplatin was the most effective. Further testing found cisplatin could stop or slow the growth of certain cancer cells.
Basic scientists do work that may later translate into practical applications.
They study life processes – how and when and why cancer cells spread, for instance – that lead the way toward being able to predict, diagnose and treat diseases including cancer.
Here’s a look at some of the cancer-related research underway in laboratories at Upstate Medical University.
-- Biochemists/molecular biologists Stewart Loh, PhD, and Michael Cosgrove, PhD, are researching a compound in green tea that could lead to a tumor-suppressing drug.