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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA Cancer Center says cure may be oncoming

    The UA Cancer Center may boast a cure for cancer in the foreseeable future through a drug developed to combat multi-tumor forms of the disease, UA researchers said.

    Daruka Mahadevan, an associate professor of medicine at the center, and his research team said the medicine focuses on a molecule known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.

    ATP transfers chemical energy within cells, and all living organisms have it. Without ATP, there can be no life within a cell, Mahadevan said.

    The drugs Mahadevan and his team are developing use the universal energy of ATP against cancer cells, rendering them non-functional, he said.

    This approach to countering cancer is not a completely new one, Mahadevan said.

    A drug known as Gleevec, which incorporates the same concept, received Food and Drug Administration approval in 2001.

    Gleevec, though, only slows down cancer and does not cure it, he said.

    Following Gleevec’s quick approval and success, Mahadevan began creating computerized three-dimensional models to produce a chemical that could possibly replace ATP within cells.

    “”Since we understand how these proteins work, we know how to bind out the proteins and use this technology to cure cancer,”” said Wenqing Qi, a team lab researcher.

    Once chemical matches are found, Mahadevan said, they must be ranked in order of efficiency and then tested on certain cancers to find which forms they are most effectively combined with. However, the number and efficiency of these matches alone are not enough to create a drug, Mahadevan said. The chemicals must contain the correct amount of solubility and be compatible with the circulatory and excretory systems, he said.

    The molecules must then be patented and turned into an official medication by a drug company.

    At that point, academia would not be able to take it any further, Mahadevan said. It would be in the realm of corporations.

    Once the drugs are put into capsule form, they are tested on animals, he said.

    If the results are deemed safe, the medication would be given to people. The whole process usually takes at least five years, Mahadevan said.

    The biggest obstacle in the development of cancer medication is the lack of funding for researchers, Mahadevan said, as funding agencies are still not fully convinced these drugs can be effectively developed and evolved.

    “”What we need is good funding,”” Mahadevan said.

    The majority of the funding is distributed to corporate drug companies that may not be fully concerned with consumers’ well-being, Mahadevan said.

    “”Drug companies have their own agenda,”” he said. “”And they end up wasting money and time.””

    Although the Arizona Funding Agency is also hesitant, Mahadevan said it would benefit from supporting high-impact, high-risk projects.

    “”The problem is, they don’t think outside the box,”” Mahadevan said. “”We’re trying to get our patients the best possible drugs to treat their cancer.””

    Mahadevan described cancer as a parasite with a capacity to build up resistances against medications.

    Cancer’s ability to render older drugs less effective is the reason new and better drugs are constantly needed within the cancer field, he said.

    While structure-based cancer treatment is now being used on a global scale, Mahadevan said the future of cancer drug research will involve a combination of structured treatment, chemical behavior and a bridge between existing and prospective cancer drugs.

    “”Every technique that you have has its advantages,”” Mahadevan said.

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