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February 17, 2011

High-impact journals publish cancer research of ULM pharmacology professor

A University of Louisiana at Monroe assistant professor of pharmacology has been published in two major scientific journals.

The research of Dr. Yong-Yu Liu, an assistant professor of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences in ULM's College of Pharmacy, was published in Cancer Research and Progress of Lipid Research.

Liu's research is focused on cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy at the molecular level.

"In more than 60 percent of the patients with advanced solid tumors, drug resistance is the reason for treatment failure," said Liu.

"Our goal is to discover and develop gene-based therapy that would overcome drug resistance and improve the treatment of cancers, especially solid tumors."

Liu's work is particularly focused on a tumor suppressor protein known as p53, which plays a crucial role in protecting healthy cells, but causes cancers when it dysfunctions.

His research shows that when a key enzyme in the body is suppressed, called GCS or glucosylceramide synthase, it recovers p53 functions and blunts the growth of cancerous tumors.

"For example, human ovarian cancer cells expressing mutant p53 showed resistance to automatic cell death," said Liu.

"We found that GCS silencing sensitized these mutant p53 cells to treatment, but did not affect sensitive cells with wild-type p53, which is a positive sign."

Liu said his work is preclinical research for a novel type of therapy against tumors with p53 mutations.

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