Center for Biotechnology co-director Tomasz Skorski has been awarded $100,000 by the U.S. Army Medical Research Office to investigate why the chronic myelogenous leukemia cell becomes resistant to treatment.
“The oncogene that causes chronic myelogenous leukemia is known,” said Skorski, a Scholar of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America and a leader of the Molecular Carcinogenesis Section in the Center for Biotechnology. “There has been a small molecule developed that targets this oncogene. It was a real breakthrough in cancer treatment in general and was very successful in clinical trials.”
But, Skorski warned, the molecule is not a miracle drug and the leukemia can become resistant to this drug because the oncogene mutates itself.
“So the drug cannot attack the oncogene because it is not the original version that the molecule has been designed to attack; rather it’s a mutated version,” he said.
Skorski says the 18-month grant, which was awarded through the Defense Department’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, will allow the researchers to examine what is causing the oncogene to mutate itself and block the drug’s effectiveness.
“If we can determine what is causing this mutation and avoid it from happening, we can then effectively attack the leukemia cells with this new drug,” he said.
Skorski emphasized that this grant is unique in that they did not have to provide any preliminary data.
“Typically, in applying for research funding, you have to be able to prove that you can do what you promise to do,” he said. “But with this grant, we just had to put our minds and ideas on paper and they said, ‘Run with it.’"
The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $120,000 to civil and environmental engineering’s Michel C. Boufadel to investigate how the breaking of ocean waves affects dispersants that are applied to oil spills in sea environments.
“We are trying to characterize this phenomenon by analyzing how much energy is dissipated when a wave breaks,” Boufadel said. “That amount of energy is an indication of the amount of mixing that takes place.”
Boufadel, an expert in oil remediation, said an oil spill at sea can be cleaned up by adding dispersants — which are like detergents — to the oil. But, he added, like detergent in a washing machine, dispersants need agitation in order to work properly, which means you need waves in order to apply them to oil spills.
“What we’ve done so far has been to measure the energy in wave heights, which were about one foot maximum, the wave velocities and the water velocities at a wave tank in Canada,” Boufadel explained.
Next, he said, the researchers will begin adding oil into the tank to see how much dissipates naturally, before finally adding dispersants to see what happens.
Adding dispersants, Boufadel said, helps break the oil into small droplets, which can then be consumed by marine organisms because the oil is organic matter.
Boufadel said his approach to this situation is unique because this is the first investigation into the impact of wave energy in the middle of the ocean.
“Wave energy has been investigated by others, usually oceanographers, who tend not to look at it from an environmental standpoint,” he said.
- Preston M. Moretz