News Release

UTHSC research collaboration on new treatment for ovarian cancer receives national support

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Wei Li, PhD

image: Wei Li, PhD view more 

Credit: Courtesy UTHSC

A team of UTHSC researchers has been awarded $924,000 from the Department of Defense for their work developing a new treatment for ovarian cancer. The project is a collaboration between the labs of Wei Li, PhD, distinguished professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Drug Discovery Center in the College of Pharmacy, Junming Yue, PhD, associate professor of Pathology in the College of Medicine, and Duane D. Miller, PhD, professor emeritus of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The project builds on over 10 years of work done by Dr. Li and Dr. Miller to develop new compounds that target and disrupt microtubules in cancer cells. An investigational new drug, sabizabulin, previously known as VERU-111, is currently under multiple clinical trials. Now, the team will be testing a newer generation of this clinical candidate against metastatic and drug-resistant ovarian cancer.

Key to securing project funding is the contribution from Dr. Yue, a campus animal-model expert who has done extensive in vivo research in a mouse model of ovarian cancer. For this project, Dr. Yue generated a unique model that closely replicates the characteristics of human ovarian cancer, including the accumulation of bloody fluid in the abdomen, aggressive primary ovarian tumors, and metastasis throughout the membrane lining the abdominal cavity. “This model can be used to assess and screen any preclinical drugs for ovarian cancer treatment, including the drugs from Dr. Li's lab,” Dr. Yue said. “Particularly, this model can be utilized to evaluate drug efficacy by determining the survival curve.”

“We are very excited to receive this grant which will allow our team to evaluate our lead compound in highly clinically relevant models of aggressive ovarian cancer,” Dr. Li said. “We also appreciate the initial support from both the Drug Discovery Center and the campus, and the interactions with our industry partner, Veru, Inc.”

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