More than a decade ago, Dr. Wael ElShamy of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, started researching methods to treat multiple cancers, including a particular breast cancer that disproportionately affects African American women.
"One of the reasons why I moved my lab to the state of Mississippi is because we're studying a specific type of breast cancer that is over-represented in African Americans. So, we became more interested in this because we're trying to find targets to design or develop drugs against them so we can kill tumor cells," says ElShamy.
Large amounts of the nuclear proteins, geminin and c-Abl, cause tumor growth.
The drug imatinib mesylate can stop the cancer growth in some patients by putting an end to geminin overexpression.
Dr. ElShamy says determining which patients will respond to the drug will save them the agony of wondering if it will be effective.
Shirley Carlton is a breast cancer survivor. She says her misfortune of battling the disease could have benefited from ElShamy's findings.
"I have had tumors removed four times. If it was something that we could have detected a long time ago, then I wouldn't have kept going through all of this. Maybe I wouldn't have gotten cancer. Who knows?" Carlton says.
Dr. ElShamy's patent also covers therapies for liver, ovarian, colon, brain, lung, and prostate cancer.
Research was funded in part by a grant from the American Cancer society.