Lu and his team are investigating the cellular protein p53, which in a normal, healthy person plays a role in the suppression of tumor growth. The genetic makeup of p53 is mutated in greater than 50 percent of all human cancers, while its activity level is often markedly reduced in the remaining half.
His research has led to the identification of several important cell signaling pathways and regulators of p53 that could become targets for anti‐cancer drug development.
Lu’s team has identified a small molecule called Inauhzin that inhibits the pathways through which p53 is inactivated, leading to p53‐dependent tumor death in human lung and colon cancer cells in the laboratory. Thus, reactivation of p53 in cancers by utilizing the newly identified molecule to target these pathways is a possible option for the development of new anti‐cancer therapies.
“Eventually developing this small molecule into a clinical anti-cancer therapy would be potentially beneficial to approximately 50 percent of all cancer-bearing patients who still have a normal tumor suppressor gene called TP53,” Lu says.
Dr. Hua Lu, the Reynolds and Ryan Families Chair in Translational Cancer Research and chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Tulane University, has received a five‐year, $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study a molecule that could become a target for cancer drug therapy.
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