Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

Xavier professor makes strides in breast cancer research

25th August 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

Researchers at Xavier University led by Dr. Guangdi Wang are making exciting discoveries in maximizing the effectiveness of breast cancer treatments.

Dr. Wang, a professor of chemistry at Xavier, has studied breast cancer since 2004. He has studied the disease and the methods of fighting it. One of the most common means to attack the tumors is tamoxifen, an antagonist of the estrogen receptor in breast tissue.

While it has its strengths, tamoxifen also has its weaknesses. Patients can develop a resistance to it over time, and some people do not have the right metabolism needed for the drug to thrive. Wang estimates ten to twelve percent of breast cancer patients have this problem.

The reason is tamoxifen is what’s referred to as a “pre-drug.” This means the body’s metabolism has to aid in its journey to become 4-hydroxytamoxifen, which is the form that battles the cancer. With the wrong metabolism, it won’t be effective.

Presently, doctors can’t simply give patients 4-hydroxytamoxifen because in its purest form, the body processes it too quickly and it is expelled from the body after a few hours, rendering it ineffective.

But Wang and his team are working on a variant of 4-hydroxytamoxifen that won’t be excreted too soon. This form will be a boron-based prodrug that will be taken orally.

In animal testing, Wang’s compound was one hundred times more potent than tamoxifen. This means that a dose of one-tenth the standard tamoxifen dosage will be required to treat breast cancer, reducing the chances for side effects. While tamoxifen does not have as many issues as standard chemo, it can have negative consequences including hot flashes.

Wang is presently preparing a filing for phase 1 clinical trials to start the process of FDA approval. He hopes his drug will be approved within the next six months. He’s optimistic about its reception because his work simply tweaks something already found in the body.

“It’s not entirely a new chemical entity,” Wang said. “We’re improving the drug form…4-hydroxytamoxifen is in our bodies.”

The research at Xavier is not the only work being done on Tamoxi­fen in New Orleans. Cancer re­searchers at Tulane University’s School of Medicine, led by Drs. Steven Hill and David Blask, released a study in July that demonstrated the importance of increased melatonin levels in conjunction with tamoxifen in treating breast cancer.

Wang emphasized that his work at Xavier is not limited to breast cancer and tamoxifen. His long-term goal is to provide cancer patients of all types with more effective treatments that dramatically reduce the spread of the disease. Even if it can’t be eliminated entirely, it can be slowed to the point where people can manage living with it and it becomes more of a chronic illness instead of a fatal one.

“We want people to die of old age instead of cancer,” said Wang.

This article originally published in the August 25, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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