(Nov. 30, 2010)--Lutcher Brown Distinguished Chair Donald Kurtz in the UTSA Department of Chemistry has been selected to receive $199,906 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to develop a novel approach to delivering iron at toxic levels to kill cancer cells and tumors. The two-year research project is considered "High Impact High Risk" and if successful could have a tremendous impact on cancer therapy.
"Iron is essential for all cells in the body to function properly and is safe up to certain levels -- however, the cells' iron transfer process is highly regulated," said Kurtz. "If we overload cells or tissues with iron, it becomes toxic. Our goal is to develop a method for delivering iron at toxic levels specifically to cancer cells."
Over the next two years, Kurtz and his research team will focus on developing a photochemical or light-activated cancer therapy. A nano-scale protein scaffold filled with approximately 2,000 iron atoms in its hollow center will drive the treatment. The scaffold will include peptides on its outer shell that will allow it to be recognized specifically by cancer cells. The peptides would make the scaffold bind to the cancer cells like Velcro.
Once researchers deliver the iron-loaded scaffold to cancer cells, they will zap the scaffold with tissue-penetrating, near-infra-red light. The light treatment will cause the scaffold to release its iron into the cells. The released iron will induce the production of free radicals, which, at sufficiently high levels, will overwhelm the cell's anti-oxidant capacity -- thereby killing the cells. The peptide on the outer shell of the protein scaffold can be varied to target specific types of cancers such as breast or prostate.
"The basic idea is to use light as the trigger to shoot iron out of our protein scaffold and into the cancer cells," said Kurtz. "Think of it as shooting iron bullets to kill cancer." Kurtz joined UTSA's faculty in 2006 after serving 20 years on the chemistry faculty at the University of Georgia. He is a specialist in bioinorganic chemistry and studies metalloenzymes such as non-heme iron enzymes at the molecular level.
Established by Texas voters in 2007, CPRIT will invest up to $3 billion for groundbreaking cancer research, prevention programs and services in Texas.
Throughout the summer, UTSA offers more than 60 camps in science, engineering, architecture, sports, music, writing, language, culture and more.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
Chat with members of the Downtown Campus Initiative Task Force about changes taking place as the Downtown Campus grows and transforms to offer a comprehensive living and learning experience. Table topics will include curriculum changes, orientation updates, transportation, food and living options.
Frio Street Building Commons Area, Downtown Campus
UTSA and the San Antonio Express-News will jointly host this town hall meeting to discuss Unequal Justice in Bexar County and in Texas.
Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
Experience a fun, interactive week at UTSA as new students and their families take the first steps to becoming a Roadrunner.
Various locations, Main Campus and Downtown Campuses
Finance and Budget Modeling Task Force presents a panel presentation of experts from 4 universities with experience in incentive-based budgeting. All UTSA campus community is invited to attend and be informed about budgeting processes.
Business Building Richard Liu Auditorium (BB 2.01.02), Main Campus
This event showcases the work of trainees, faculty, staff and students from multiple disciplines and public health agencies across San Antonio.
H-E-B Student Union Ballroom (HSU 1.104), Main Campus
This exhibit highlights the UTSA Special Collections, which includes historic photographs from Texas, San Antonio and UTSA history.
UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
Come learn about the benefits available before the enrollment period July 15-31.
Business Building University Room (BB 2.06.04), Main Campus
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