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Scientist works on innovative treatments for brain tumors

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. With a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, a Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center researcher will continue his quest to offer new treatments for one of the deadliest types of brain tumors.

Waldemar Debinski, M.D., Ph.D., a nationally recognized physician-scientist who pioneered a method to destroy malignant brain tumor cells without damaging healthy cells, came to Wake Forest Baptist last year to direct the Brain Tumor Center of Excellence.

The treatment Debinski developed is based on the discovery of an unusual feature of the cells of glioblastomas the least curable of all human cancers. The majority of the 17,500 brain tumors diagnosed each year in the United States are glioblastomas. Patients have a median survival time of nine to 12 months and a five-year survival rate of 1 to 5 five percent.

Debinski found that glioblastoma cells have a particular type of receptor for interleukin 13 (IL 13), a naturally occurring protein that regulates the immune system in the body. Normal cells do not have these same receptors. Debinski developed a drug that combines a form of Il 13 with a toxin that kills cancer cells. By targeting the therapy to these receptors, the drug finds and kills the cancer cells.

While the first generation of the drug is being tested in patients, the grant will allow Debinski to work to improve this treatment approach. For example, he hopes to re-engineer Il 13 so that it recognizes cancer cells and completely spares normal tissues, something that cannot be achieved with normal chemotherapy.

"We want to examine opportunities to take full advantage of the unique presence of restricted IL 13 receptors in glioblastomas as a treatment target," he said.

With the research grant, he hopes to identify other agents that will bind to the IL 13 receptors besides IL 13. If they are able to find agents that are smaller than IL 13, more opportunities to d
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
21-Mar-2005


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