Dr. Wael ElShamy's quest to cure cancer now includes a patent.
The patent covers a method to diagnose and treat several types and subtypes of cancer. It has worked in the lab on triple negative breast cancer samples and ElShamy is working to get it to clinical trial for patients.
The patent covers several cancers that overexpress, or have too much, geminin and a protein called c-Abl in the cell nucleus. Drugs already approved for use against one cancer can keep the nuclear c-Abl from enabling overexpressed geminin. Too much geminin promotes tumor growth. When geminin levels fall, the cancer growth stops and cancer cells die.
"Geminin overexpression is seen in several aggressive cancers," said ElShamy, associate professor of biochemistry and director of the UMMC Cancer Institute's Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Program. "Geminin overexpression converts normal cells to cancer cells."
The key was in finding what activated the overexpressed geminin to act as a tumor inducer. He found the errant message-sender in a protein called c-Abl. This protein can exist outside or inside a cancer cell nucleus. ElShamy found that when it's outside the nucleus, it had little effect on geminin. When he found it inside the nucleus, geminin was always overexpressed.
His patent covers c-Abl inhibitor use in therapies for breast, liver, ovarian, colon, brain, lung and prostate cancer. "The patent licenses the idea for us," ElShamy said. If a patent generates payment, it helps support research at the Medical Center.
The patent is exciting, but ElShamy is more enthusiastic about work to start a clinical trial to test the idea in triple negative breast cancer patients.