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New grant could help lead to more cancer cures for FAU researchers

A biomedical team at Florida Atlantic University hopes a $368,588 research grant will help advance its work now that it has developed a gel that appears to cure some forms of skin cancer. The gel awaits Food and Drug Administration approval.

The money from the grant will help go toward more skin cancer research and help fund new cancer research as well, said Dr. Herbert Weissbach, research professor and director at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

“Our studies are particularly focused on the role of oxidative damage in aging,” Weissbach said.

Half of the money for the grant came from the Florida Technology, Research and Scholarship Board. The rest came from funds secured by a drug firm that hopes to take advantage of Weissbach's research.

The grant was awarded after the biomedical research team discovered that when Sulindac, an anti-inflammatory sold as Clinoril, was mixed with hydrogen peroxide, the compound killed some types of cancerous skin cells, but not normal cells. It also helped prevent the cancer from returning.

FAU's biomedical team has been developing the compound into a gel over the last six years.

FAU, together with technology licensee CHS, submitted the grant proposal to fund additional work on Weissbach’s discovery of a novel combination of agents. CHS is developing this therapy for treatment of actinic keratosis , a precancerous skin condition. CHS also is developing an over-the-counter skin protective agent.

Sulindac was studied under three conditions: how it is metabolized in the body, protects normal cells against oxidative damage and enhances the killing of cancer cells when exposed to oxidative stress.

David Brunell, a member of the research team and cancer survivor, has been deeply involved in development of the gel.

“The whole experience just amazed me. I thought, gee, maybe I designed some interesting things over the years, but [it] doesn’t even come close to saving lives,” Brunell said.

His focus is the metabolic rate at which the body absorbs Sulindac.

“This is the preeminent field of the 21st century. Electronics and computers are tools we can apply for cures for things,” Brunell said.

The gel is expected to receive FDA approval within the next six months, and researchers hope it is hailed as a major advance in helping people with two forms of skin cancer.

Weissbach, Brunell and the other researchers are optimistic about their findings and see molecular biology and technology as key elements in discovering cancer cures, They hope the grant money will help move the work ahead more rapidly.

Currently, the team is working on a sunscreen that will prevent skin cancers, and they will use some of the money to make the compound.




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