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Archive for Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pioneer of leukemia drug therapy to address state of cancer research

February 20, 2007

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Cancer research

A doctor who helped develop a groundbreaking cancer treatment will speak later this week on the Kansas University campus.

Brian Druker, developer of the leukemia drug Gleevec, will speak twice on campus Thursday as part of the 2007 Takeru Higuchi Memorial Lectures. Druker is a professor at the Oregon Health and Science University Cancer Institute in Portland.

Gleevec, which the U.S. National Library of Medicine describes as "the first line of therapy" for all chronic myeloid leukemia patients, works by interfering with an abnormal protein and keeping it from producing malignant cells.

The drug is revolutionary because it doesn't rely on "nuking" cancer cells with a "heavy artillery" of chemotherapy, said Valentino J. Stella, KU distinguished professor of pharmaceutical chemistry.

"It's way up there in the annals of cancer chemotherapy," Stella said. "I think he gives us hope for less traumatic treatment of cancer."

Druker will give a speech on "Imatinib (Gleevec) as a Paradigm of Targeted Cancer Therapy" at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in 130 Budig Hall.

At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, he'll speak on "Cancer Therapy in the 21st Century" in the auditorium at the Simons Biosciences Research Laboratories on West Campus.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Throughout the visit, he'll meet with local researchers, including a group from KU's Cancer Center, Stella said.

KU leaders have put cancer research at the top of their priority list, with the goal of attaining designation as one of 40 "Comprehensive Cancer Centers" nationwide.

Preparations already are under way for the next Higuchi lecture-series speaker. Craig Venter, who is famous for his work sequencing the human genome, will visit KU in early December.

The lecture series, begun in 1989, is named after the late KU professor Takeru Higuchi, whose accomplishments include founding Oread Laboratories in the 1980s.

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