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UPCI, Pitt Researchers Gain Better Understanding of Radiation-Mitigator Drug

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Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have a better way of understanding how a drug used to protect against and mitigate irradiation damage interacts inside human cells. Results of the study will be presented today at the AACR Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The study, led by Joel Greenberger, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Pitt, involves the successful labeling and tracking of JP4-039, a drug that combats irradiation-induced cell death by assisting the mitochondria – the energy generator of all cells. The drug was developed by Dr. Greenberger’s research team in conjunction with a team of chemists led by Peter Wipf, Ph.D., distinguished professor of chemistry at Pitt. Previous research has shown that the drug could offer protection from radiation-induced esophagitis, inflammation of the esophagus that causes intense pain during eating and swallowing, as well as have a possible role in post-radiation exposure crises.

“With this study, we found a way to label JP4-039 so we can watch where it travels in the mitochondria,” Dr. Greenberger said. “This allows us to understand what it is binding to and how it acts. We can measure how much of the drug is delivered and where without interfering with its effectiveness. This is important because it is easier to study what the drug does to human cells and, conversely, what human cells do to the drug.”

Because the labeled drug, referred to as BODIPY JP4-039, can be rapidly detected once administered, Dr. Greenberger anticipates it will help further understanding of the radioprotection JP4-039 can offer.

This study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.