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Research team explores skin cancer treatment

Research could lead to breakthrough in melanoma
Thursday, August 29, 2013

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 76,690 new cases of melanoma have been diagnosed in the United States in 2013. Dr. Robert Delong, associate professor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University, is committed to finding a better treatment solution.

A research team including Delong, Dr. Adam Wanekaya, associate professor of chemistry; Dr. Kartik Ghosh professor of physics, astronomy and materials science; and Dr. Richard Garrad, professor of biomedical sciences, has high hopes that a recent renewal grant of $398,000 through the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute could help find a solution to this dangerous disease.

“When you put together us four, we can compete on a national and international research level,” Delong said.

The lifetime risk of getting melanoma is 1 in 50 for Caucasians, 1 in 200 for Hispanics and 1 in 1,000 for African Americans, according to the American Cancer Society.

The team’s research goals are two-fold:

  • To be the first in the world to identify a nanomaterial that will naturally bind RNA and a protein together that won’t be toxic to normal cells while killing cancerous cells.
  • To demonstrate that these anti-cancer RNA nanoconjugates specifically alter gene expression and protein production in cultured melanoma cells. In the long-term, the team hopes to develop an animal model of melanoma for testing these anti-cancer nanomaterials once they are bound to engineered RNA and protein molecules.

Delong explained the first goal, RNA delivery:  “We want to be able to show that a certain type of RNA can be put into cancer cells and cause the cells to start to change back into normal cells. “This could one day make chemo therapy much more effective and selective.”

The National Institutes of Health’s funding for “Anti-Cancer RNA Nanoconjugates” will fund the next three years of research. This money will provide materials and supplies for experiments, student salaries for part time graduate and undergraduate students, and travel money to help cover costs for trips to visit various research conventions throughout the next three years.

“Without this money we would not be able to do any of the cutting edge research we are doing,” said Delong.

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About Missouri State University
Missouri State University is a public, comprehensive metropolitan system with a statewide mission in public affairs, whose purpose is to develop educated persons. The university’s identity is distinguished by its public affairs mission, which entails a campus-wide commitment to foster expertise and responsibility in ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement.

College of Health and Human Services
The College of Health and Human Services offers 16 undergraduate and 17 graduate and certificate programs. The academic units in the college include: biomedical sciences; communication sciences and disorders; kinesiology; nursing; physical therapy; physician assistant studies; psychology; public health;  social work; and sports medicine and athletic training. Complementing the academic course work in nationally accredited programs are clinical experiences, laboratory and research experiences and internship opportunities. Students receive comprehensive training through interdisciplinary course work, coupled with professional mentoring in the work environment.

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