Medical science has yet to devise a foolproof method of stopping a malignancy, whether blood- or lymph-borne, or solid—as when a tumor relentlessly takes over healthy tissues to stay alive. At New York Medical College, physicians who provide the clinical care and research are striving to bring new diagnostic and treatment strategies from bench-to-bedside.
Clinical research in cancer is the central focus of the Division of Oncology/ Hematology, Department of Medicine. Directed by Tauseef Ahmed, M.D., professor of medicine, the division offers the latest in treatment protocols and conducts clinical trials that focus on experimental therapies for breast cancer, central nervous system tumors and malignancies of the cervix and ovary, digestive tract, prostate and kidneys. His colleague Karen P. Seiter, M.D., professor of medicine, heads the search for potential new therapies in leukemia and lymphoma.
Basic research support emanates from the six departments in the School of Basic Medical Sciences and from the Brander Cancer Research Institute. Under the direction of Zbignew Darzynkewicz, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology, of medicine and of microbiology and immunology, the Institute provides the molecular analysis and advanced equipment critical for studying cell proliferation and apoptosis. Dr. Darzynkiewicz is joined by Frank Traganos, Ph.D., professor of medicine, in collaboration with clinical oncologists to examine cell cycles and aspects of cell death as predictors for which cancers will be most receptive to chemotherapy, and which will need more aggressive treatment regimens.
Researchers at the Institute are developing novel assays to analyze cell death, and studying whether the protease inhibitors used in the treatment of HIV infection and AIDS have a role to play in the process of apoptosis; investigating how DNA damage triggers apoptosis and creating new antitumor strategies; identifying and analyzing the expression of cyclin proteins in individual cells by flow cytometry; and developing a new method for the detection of proliferating cells, among dozens of other studies.
Basic Science Research
The laboratory of J.W. “Dicky” Chiao, Ph.D., professor of medicine, was the first to report that isothiocyanates, present naturally in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, turnip, radish, cauliflower) may be one of the most effective dietary factors for preventing prostate cancer. The group has demonstrated that a family of isothiocyanates from different species of cruciferous vegetables induces growth arrest and cell death in human prostate cancer cells in culture and in mouse cancer models.
Jan Geliebter, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, investigates the molecular mechanisms in papillary thyroid cancer, with the hope that these molecular studies will lead to better diagnostic and prognostic tools as well as potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of the disease. Dr. Geliebter also studies the interplay of aging, diet and oxidative stress in the etiology of prostate cancer, as well as immunotherapeutic approaches for the treatment of cancer.
Marietta Y.W.T. Lee, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, focuses on DNA replication and repair proteins. Using the enzyme polymerase Delta to “proofread” nucleotides, Dr. Lee studies the molecular architecture of the cellular protein complexes involving DNA polymerase Delta, and the biochemical and genetic mechanisms active in its regulation.
Raj K. Tiwari, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, is studying prevention and treatment of cancer specifically the hormonally modulated cancers, breast, prostate and thyroid. The group is developing a peptide based multi-valent approach towards prostate and breast cancer and have identified several anti-tumor peptides capable of inducting a robust immune response. Together with chemotherapy and novel stem cell therapy, these immunological approaches are being used to develop new combination modalities. The Tiwari laboratory also has a program in thyroid cancer, which involves developing prognostic markers and using dietary and stem cell approaches to interact with hormonal responses in treating thyroid proliferative diseases.
Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, is exploring the structure, function and regulation of DNA topoisomerases, enzymes that modify the topological state of DNA. She is also trying to identify novel antibacterial compounds that target bacterial DNA topoisomerase I to combat multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens. The long-term goal of Dr. Tse-Dinh's lab is to understand how DNA topology is regulated and how it affects biological functions. The biochemist also has worked with oncologists here in studies aimed at designing better treatments utilizing the topoisomerase-targeting anti-cancer drugs.
Meena Jhanwar-Uniyal, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, collaborates with Raj Murali, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology, to study genetic determinants of progression and dissemination of glioblastoma multiform and other tumors.
Joseph Wu, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, is looking at the control of gene expression in cancerous cells, including leukemia, prostate, breast and lung malignancies. He has focused his research on the mechanism of chemoprevention and cardioprotection by dietary and botanical agents, specifically resveratrol and several polyphenols isolated from botanical sources. His team is also actively purifying and identifying cellular targets of resveratrol and bioactive polyphenols obtained from plants, to determine the role of the identified targeting proteins of resveratrol in the prevention of prostate cancer and other malignant diseases. Dr. Wu’s lab has also embarked on studies of a recently discovered synthetic purine called reversine, which has been found to be a potent aurora kinase B inhibitor with novel activity in controlling the mitotic chromosomal passenger complex checkpoint and in inducing mitotic catastrophe in leukemia, prostate, and breast cancer cells.