While researchers have made great strides in creating treatments for a type of bone marrow cancer called myeloma, chemotherapy resistance is common.
Martina Bazzaro, Ph.D., and Brian Van Ness, Ph.D., U faculty and recipients of the Masons-supported Brainstorm Award, are searching for ways to improve outcomes.
Bazzaro and Van Ness believe that enzymes called deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy and are developing a new compound, called RA-9, to target DUBS.
Their biggest finding has been that combining two therapies—in this case, RA-9 with other myeloma treatments—is more effective in killing tumor cells. Going forward, they hope to identify what causes myeloma cells to respond to these drugs and to study the therapy’s effectiveness in mice.
Tackling myeloma from different angles
One of the strengths of this study—like many supported by the Masons—is that the researchers come at it from different angles.
“This is an opportunity for colleagues who have different areas of expertise to get together and find combined approaches for treating cancer.” — Brian Van Ness, Ph.D.
Bazzaro—whose background is in medicinal chemistry—is interested in the role of tissues surrounding the tumor in cancer’s spread, while Van Ness—a geneticist and cell biologist—wants to know what goes wrong in specific cancer cells.
Both approaches are important because corrupt cells and tissues surrounding them contribute to cancer’s spread.