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Students conduct cancer research

Students conduct cancer research

Cancer research programs led by Dr. Tim Dwyer, professor of chemistry, have given students the opportunity to participate in  research that seeks to find a cure to cancer. These programs have recently made impressive advancements.

Erica James
Erica James is shown conducting cancer research. (Photo from Tim Dwyer)

Working in the science labs on the Owings Mills North campus, Dwyer has focused the program’s research on two specific drugs: docetaxel and doxorubicin. These two drugs have been known to effectively fight against a variety of different forms of cancer; however, both drugs have side effects including increasing patient resistance and heart problems.

With the help of his student research assistants, Dwyer is working to find ways to reduce the side effects of these drugs. The research team is currently trying to find a way to regulate and block the specific enzymes in the two drugs.

Over the course of each semester, two to three students choose to dedicate their time and effort towards the research. During a calendar year, the program usually requires the help of five or six different students including those working in the summer research program.

The research team has been able to create a system that successfully tests both the mitochondria and outside isoforms within a cancer fighting enzyme called malate dehydrogenase. They have also found a way to make pieces of DNA that can be inserted into bacteria, which then produces the enzymes the team needs. Now that the team can successfully make their own enzymes, they are no longer forced to spend around $350 for a small test tube of the enzymes they need.

Dr. Tim Dwyer and student Meghann Hefner work on the cancer research project.

The results of their recent findings has made Dwyer seemingly optimistic.

“I am really excited with our recent findings, with that, I’m putting in a grant to the NIH (National Cancer Institute) to get more money to study these types of things,” he said.  The research team’s next step is finding a way to purify and clean up the enzymes they have created and continue their study.

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Students conduct cancer research