Pharmacy researcher determined to find weapons in the fight against cancer – UofSC News & Events



As a young girl growing up in Kyiv, Ukraine, Eugenia Broude always knew she would one day be a scientist. Daughter of an engineer (her mother) and a physicist (her father), Broude is constantly surrounded by science.

But the special school in Kyiv which offered an advanced program in biology, chemistry and mathematics was not in the district where Broude lived and she would not normally be allowed to enroll.

But that didn’t deter Broude. Armed with her stellar report card, the admittedly shy 12-year-old Broude bravely endured three bus rides and an hour’s walk to the school she wanted to attend. Upon arriving, she asked to speak to the school principal to plead her case. It worked.

Broude’s education eventually led her to earn a doctorate. in biochemistry/molecular biology from the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. After her doctoral studies, she came to the United States and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular biology and neuroscience at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Broude joined the University of South Carolina 11 years ago as a member of the SmartState Translational Cancer Therapeutics Center led by Igor Roninson, Ph.D. She is now an associate professor in the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences at the College of Pharmacy.

Deeply personal reasons prompted her to focus her research on the treatment of cancer.

“My father died of cancer during my first year of university,” she says. “And a very dear friend battled breast cancer for 19 years, advanced breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer and finally ovarian cancer. Even when I’m tired and frustrated, thinking about her makes me ready to fight again.

Her most recent research focuses on the resistance of certain types of breast cancer to drug treatments.

Our COBRE Center for Targeted Therapeutics is also a unique asset for professional development, which not only supports the research and instrumentation nuclei, but has also enabled a whole generation of researchers to start their careers, and without new researchers, science will not advance.

Cancer treatment has made tremendous progress over the past few decades with the advent of new drugs designed to block individual proteins that are essential for specific, well-defined types of cancer. Perhaps the best known and most widely used of these bespoke drugs are those that target HER2, a protein present in about a quarter of all breast cancers and necessary for the growth of these cancers.

The training of students is at the same level of importance as what we do in the laboratory… without new researchers, science will not advance.

Eugenia Broude, Faculty of Pharmacy

HER2-targeting drugs have shown great benefit for early-stage patients with HER2-positive breast cancer; however, when these drugs are used to treat patients whose cancer has already spread through the body, the benefit of HER2-targeting drugs is often only temporary. Tumors eventually become resistant and continue to grow despite drug treatment.

The problem of drug resistance arises with almost all anti-cancer drugs and represents the greatest global challenge in curing cancer patients. A new study by Broude’s team, including graduate student Xiaokai Ding, postdoctoral fellow Amanda Sharko and several others, in collaboration with Roninson and John Crown, Ph.D., University College, Dublin, Ireland, recently was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and suggests a novel approach to circumvent tumor resistance to HER2-targeting drugs.

The new approach involves using drugs that inhibit Mediator kinase, a protein that tumor cells use to alter their biological programs in a way that allows them to adapt to conflicting conditions, such as drug treatment. When HER2-targeting drugs were combined with Mediator kinase inhibitors (discovered by Senex Biotechnology, a South Carolina company), their effectiveness against HER2-positive breast cancers was significantly increased even when the tumors were already resistant to HER2-targeting drugs used alone, and, moreover, resistance to these drugs did not develop in susceptible tumor cells. These results suggest that combining Mediator kinase inhibitors with HER2-targeting drugs and potentially with other anticancer agents can prevent and overcome the key challenge of drug resistance in cancer.

The finding itself was rather fortuitous – the result of an oversight in the lab.

“Someone forgot to throw away vials containing tumor cells that all seemed dead after drug treatment, but tumor cells came back in vials that were kept too long – except for vials where a Mediator inhibitor kinase has been added to the drug,” she says.

A new $3 million R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute will allow Broude and his co-investigators, Roninson and Hexin Chen, Ph.D., biology, to continue their work in this groundbreaking area of ​​cancer research. breast cancer. In addition, Broude and Mengqian Chen, Ph.D., Pharmacy, were recently awarded an NIH/NCI Small Business Innovation Research Grant for breast cancer treatment studies. Together with a colleague from the University of Alabama, she has also applied for two additional grants that will focus on ovarian cancer research.

Despite her entire career focused on research, Broude also understands the importance of training the young researchers who will come after her. His lab still welcomes undergraduate and Pharm D students who want to participate in research.

“Training students is on the same level of importance as what we do in the lab, she says. “Our COBRE Center for Targeted Therapeutics is also a unique asset for professional development, which not only supports the research and instrumentation nuclei, but has also enabled a whole generation of researchers to start their careers, and without new researchers, science will not progress.


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