Mamoun M. Alhamadsheh, PhD, associate professor of pharmaceutics and medicinal chemistry, has been awarded a $372,731 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for the project “A new and improved drug delivery system for targeting cancer.” Dr. Alhamadsheh is the principal investigator. He has been collaborating on this project with Miki Susanto Park, PhD, professor of pharmaceutics and medicinal chemistry, and Jesika S. Faridi, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology.

According to the World Health Organization, Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. It is the second leading cause of death in the United States with over 1.5 million estimated new cases in 2017. While conventional chemotherapeutic agents are effective in treating many cancers, the cytotoxic action of these agents is also toxic to normal cells that rapidly divide such as bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract and hair follicles, leading to severe side effects.

“Targeted anticancer agents are a rapidly growing new class of anticancer agents,” said Dr. Alhamadsheh. “This class of therapeutics is typically bifunctional molecules that use a targeting moiety to selectively deliver potent, typically nonspecific, cytotoxic agents to cancer cells while sparing normal cells. The small size of targeted anticancer agents allows for better tumor penetration, especially in the case of solid tumors where the size of antibodies is a limiting factor for effective treatment.”

”The research we perform at Pacific allows our students to apply their learning to solve real-world problems.”

One of the key challenges that researchers face is that these agents are quickly excreted from the body. “Typical targeted anticancer agents do not stay long enough in the body to kill cancer cells,” Dr. Alhamadsheh said. “Therefore, you need to administer these agents often, usually by intravenous infusion in the hospital.” Not only are these treatments inconvenient for the patient, the toxicity limits the number of doses that can be administered, thus hindering the efficacy of the treatment.

The goal of Dr. Alhamadsheh and his team is to develop a novel technology that will reduce the toxicity and enhance the efficacy of targeted anticancer agents which would decrease dosing frequency and improve the lives of cancer patients.

“Graduate students are the main driving force for this project,” Dr. Alhamadsheh said. “Two individuals in particular, Wabel Albusairi ’17, PhD, who is now an assistant professor at Kuwait University, and Arindom Pal ’19 were instrumental in generating the preliminary data that allowed us to obtain this NIH funding.”

“The research we perform at Pacific allows our students to apply their learning to solve real-world problems,” Dr. Alhamadsheh said. “It motivates students and provides them with a great sense of satisfaction when they realize that the work they do has the potential to save the lives of many cancer patients. Also, when students have the opportunity to research alongside faculty members it broadens their knowledge and increases career opportunities.”

By Anne Marie H. Bergthold
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