BYU alumnus to present new cancer-fighting therapies

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A BYU chemistry alumnus will present his latest research on targeted therapeutic and imaging agents for cancer and inflammatory diseases at the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Honored Alumni Lecture on October 10 at 11 a.m. in 1170 of the Talmage Building.

Philip Low graduated from the BYU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1971. He is now the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University and the director of the Purdue Center for Drug Discovery. His research on targeted anti-cancer agents has led to the founding of three companies, over 35 patents, some of which are still pending, and 9 targeted drugs that are currently in human clinical trials.

BYU alumnus Philip Low will present his findings on new cancer-fighting therapies.
BYU alumnus Philip Low will present his findings on new cancer-fighting therapies.
(Photo courtesy College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences)

Through researching how cells absorb foreign molecules, Low’s lab found that cancer cells had a high tendency to absorb certain kinds of vitamins. They reasoned that these vitamins could be used as carriers to deliver an anti-cancer agent to the diseased cells, thereby avoiding damage to healthy cells, as chemotherapy does.

This technology is also being tested for the development of therapies for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, atherosclerosis, pulmonary fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and asthma, Low explained.

“The old strategy of administering a very poisonous drug and allowing it to distribute indiscriminately into all cells of the body and thereby poison healthy cells and diseased cells alike is archaic medicine,” Low said. “As we develop the ability to target drugs very selectively to the pathologic cells, the older drugs that distribute indiscriminately into all cells will be avoided.”

Gregory Burton, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, expressed how excited the department is to host Dr. Low at BYU because of his outstanding accomplishments in chemistry.

Sara Donakey is the lecture project manager for the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. She shared Burton’s excitement and encouraged students to attend this unique lecture.

“It’s a good opportunity for students because you can see how alumni have succeeded with their degrees and in their lives,” Donakey said.

At the lecture, Low will also present his findings that have led to imaging agents that deliver a dye to cancer cells, allowing surgeons to see and remove more malignant tissue in one surgery than ever before. This technology is currently being tested in lung, ovarian and kidney cancers, and Low hopes continued success will allow the technology to help other cancer patients as well.

“We hope that we are able to develop therapies for cancer that both limit the toxicity that each patient experiences and increase the chances of prolongation of their life and hopefully in many cases … even provide a cure from the disease,” Low said.

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