Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists look ahead to research in 2014

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists hope to look at protein that could be anti-cancer target.
BY GREG ELWELL Published: January 7, 2014
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When it comes to New Year's resolutions, medical research isn't like eating healthy or getting more active.

“You can't just resolve to make an important discovery,” said Stephen Prescott, M.D., Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation president. “Breakthrough science takes years and years worth of hard work, incredible insight, lots of failing and trying again, and, finally, some serendipity.”

Still, that doesn't mean scientists at the OMRF aren't making resolutions of their own. It's just that they might not sound quite like the sorts of things you and I are pledging to do.

OMRF scientists Jonathan Wren, Ph.D., and Rheal Towner, Ph.D., have their sites set on a particular protein they think could be an effective anti-cancer target.

After publishing a paper examining the protein as a way to diagnose glioma, a type of brain cancer, the researchers found antibodies to the protein slowed the cancer's growth when injected.

In 2014, Towner and Wren are planning to quantify how effective this potential treatment is relative to existing treatments, increase its effectiveness and explore its possible use in other types of cancers.

Towner also hopes to expand the reach of OKN-007, an experimental drug developed at OMRF that is currently undergoing clinical trials at the University of Oklahoma's Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center.

“We are looking to extend the anti-cancer therapy of OKN-007 to pediatric gliomas,” Towner said.

For Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., whose research centers on lupus and other autoimmune diseases, 2014 will be about focus and finishing.

“My lab is going to concentrate on four big areas of research: preclinical autoimmunity, mechanisms of disease flair, infections in autoimmunity and vaccine response,” said James, who holds the Lou C. Kerr Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research at OMRF. “I know that sounds like a lot, but for me, that's focusing.”

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