Daoud receives $250,000 for cancer research at WSU

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University breast cancer researcher Sayed Daoud is among those chosen this year for a $250,000 grant from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

The grant will allow Daoud to continue with cancer research he hopes will someday result in individual treatment therapy for women with a type of breast cancer that is difficult to treat.

“This is a new approach with a very direct clinical application, which is why the Komen Foundation is excited about it,” Daoud said.

Daoud’s grant was one of 174 awarded this year by the Komen Foundation to breast cancer researchers. The 2004 grants, which totaled more than $32 million, were announced in June.

Headquartered in Dallas, the Komen Foundation was established in 1982 by Nancy Brinker to honor the memory of her sister, Susan G. Komen, who died from breast cancer at age 36.

This is Daoud’s second grant from the Komen Foundation. In 1998, he was awarded $200,000 from the Komen Oregon and Southwestern Washington affiliate.

Daoud has been researching breast cancer for a number of years and after an 18-month sabbatical at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., he returned to WSU and teamed up with James E. Bruce, an associate chemistry professor.

Daoud and Bruce are using three different types of mass spectrometers in the chemistry department to study changes in the p53 gene.

“In women with breast cancer, over 50 percent of them have a dysfunctional or mutated p53,” Daoud said. “Those are the patients that tend to have a poor prognosis for treatment, tend to have a relapse and tend to have an aggressive type of cancer that metastasizes to the bone, liver, lungs or central nervous system,” he said.

“And more importantly, those women tend not to respond well to treatment.”

Research has already discovered how to restore the p53 gene to normal, but has not shown what the consequences of that will be, which is what Daoud and Bruce are studying.

They will be identifying some “markers,” either proteins or genes, which will be affected when the p53 gene is restored to its normal function. New drugs can then be devised to selectively affect the markers and limit the side effects cancer patients tend to get from conventional treatment, Daoud said.

He and Bruce already have identified one marker and have submitted a paper for publication. It is being reviewed.

“This is an extension of what I was doing,” Daoud said.

He had obtained a patent on a new drug to go around the p53 gene and deliver treatment, but did not count on the drug binding to certain human proteins so it was not available to hit the cancer cells.

”That was a bust for us,” Daoud said. He learned this new approach at the National Cancer Institute.

He is grateful WSU has the mass spectrometer core facility, which is one of four in the Center for Integrated Biotechnology, and that Bruce was willing to collaborate on the research, he said.

“If we can do something about p53 we can slow down the number of deaths.” Breast cancer is a complex disease, Daoud said.

“It is more or less related to genes that can lose their function or be overexpressed,” he said.

Only a few genes have been identified that have a direct connection to breast cancer, including the BRCA1, BRCA2, PTEN and HER-2-NEU, Daoud said.

The p53 gene, on the other hand, guards other genes against insult from such sources as ultraviolet radiation from the sun and environmental toxins, he said.

“If that gene loses its function, people tend to get cancer.”

Daoud is an associate professor in the WSU College of Pharmacy and a member of the WSU Cancer Prevention and Research Center Advisory Committee.

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