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Groundbreaking cancer researcher speaks at UAlbany

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Susan P.C. Cole and UAlbany President Robert J. Jones.
Susan P.C. Cole and UAlbany President Dr. Robert J. Jones. Photo by Rose Schneider.

By Rose Schneider

Contributing Writer

[email protected]

A cancer researcher responsible for research on resistance to anticancer drugs spoke at the Massry Conference Center at the University at Albany’s East Campus Thursday night.

Susan P.C. Cole, Ph.D., delivered the 6th Annual Hogarty Lecture on her discovery of multi-resistant drug proteins, or MRPs, as part of the Hogarty Family Foundation’s lectures that provide information on cancer. Thursday’s lecture not only covered her own research, but also the overall progress of cancer research and anticancer drug development of the future.

Cole said the problem is more so cancer’s resistance to drugs than the drugs themselves. Researchers, she added, also need to stop focusing on discovering the “magic bullet,” or the sole cure to all cancers.

During her initial research, Cole was interested in multiple drug resistance in cancer cells, or MDR. She decided to focus on how human genetics varied the responses to drugs, and found her niche by studying human cells instead of the usual hamster cells. Choosing to use human DNA extended her research out to 18 months, but she eventually discovered MRPs.

She patented an MRP typically found only twice on chromosome 16 in normal cells called MRP1. In cancerous cells such as multi-drug resistant lung cancer cell line H69AR, which Cole studied, one would find over 100 of this MRP.

The protein is called a drug efflux pump. It functions by pumping drugs up and out of the cell, thereby rendering the cell resistant. Cole added that sea urchins have been discovered to have MRPs in order to survive pollutants in their environment.

Cole noted the biological, clinical, and pharmaceutical relevancies to this study. The discovery has also resulted in 13 patents and 28 licenses.

Susan P.C. Cole, Ph.D. Photo credit: albany.edu
Susan P.C. Cole, Ph.D. Photo credit: albany.edu

“It’s kind of like my fourth child,” the scientist and mother of three added.

Cole also spoke of what she believes is progress in stopping cancer drug pan-resistance, such as accelerated development of cancer drugs, better lab models (like mice with genetic modifications to develop human-like tumors), and technological advances like the Human Genome project. She also added that preemptive drug development, such as planning ahead for patient-specific resistance, would further progress.

Although cancer drug pan-resistance is still an issue in cancer drug development and treatment, Cole assured the audience that the issue is “a challenge, not a defeat.”

“I think it’s a challenge we’re really up to meeting,” she added.

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