Cancer

One of the areas of concentration within the Department of Pharmacology is the study of drugs active at the treatment of human cancers and of the design, development and optimization of new drug entities for cancer therapy.  The current landscape of cancer drug discovery is intricately interwoven with the new concepts coming from advances in the genetics and molecular biology of cancer.  The Department of Pharmacology works closely with the Massey Cancer Center at VCU, an NCI-designated Cancer Center, on interactive research that link investigations in cancer cell signaling, cancer genetics, radiation biology and oncology with preclinical and clinical Developmental Therapeutics and investigate the mechanism(s) and utility of new generations of drugs aimed against targets coming out of current cancer research.  The current national thrust is to design new therapeutics that directly attack targets that are either mutated or inappropriately overexpressed in human tumors and to design therapeutic protocols that use such Molecularly Targeted Drugs to specifically attack cells with the sets of mutations that occur in human cancers.  The Cancer Genome Project is defining which groups of mutations drive each of the major human cancer types (“driver mutations”) and how the multiple mutated pathways operate in cancer cells.  The study of how human tumors become addicted to the altered operation of pathways of DNA repair, carbohydrate metabolism, energy balance, and cell cycle control are generating new avenues for therapeutic intervention.  Faculty in the Department study the involvement of the processes of apoptosis, autophagy, and senescence in drug effects, drug mechanisms and perturbation of energy balance controls, the protein biochemistry and molecular biology of DNA repair, and the utilization of oncogene addiction to design combinations of molecularly targeted drugs in preclinical and clinical trials.