Designing a targeted breast cancer therapy

William PomerantzAn exciting evolution in cancer research has been the development of epigenetic therapies, which reprogram cancer cells to adopt a healthier state.  

But for all the promise these treatments hold, there is still much work to be done to perfect them so that they zero in on cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.

With Masonic support, William Pomerantz, Ph.D., part of the U’s chemistry faculty, is working to do just this with a group of molecules his team discovered that target different cancers. The molecules go after proteins called BET bromodomains, which are involved in a variety of cancers, but also appear in healthy cells. However, they have figured out a way to get the compounds they’ve developed to avoid healthy cells, while attacking only those involved in different breast cancers.

“Our biggest accomplishment so far has been to discover the unique selectivity of our compounds,” says Pomerantz. “It’s similar to a hand-into-glove fit with how they target specific aspects of BET proteins.”

The next big steps for Pomerantz’s group are to make their compounds more potent, and to identify the breast cancer cell line that they are most effective against.

“I am highly appreciative of Masonic support. It allows us to address the difficult questions up front to get our research program off the ground. The good news is there are a lot of research labs across the world trying to develop epigenetic therapies; support from Minnesota Masonic Charities helps us to distinguish our program from the crowd.”

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