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Cancer center researcher receives $2.8 million grant


A Georgia Cancer Center researcher recently received a $2.8 million grant to study triple-negative breast cancer.

Chadli Ahmed, an associate professor of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Graduate Studies, at the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Cancer Center, received the grant from the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health, according to a news release from the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University.

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“We are honored and humbled to be trusted by the NCI to further develop this project that has been central to our lab for many years. Without this grant, we can’t take this promising project to the next level,” said Ahmed in the release.

Ahmed’s focus is on understanding the biology of cancer and developing novel drugs against triple-negative breast cancer, a highly aggressive form of the disease which doesn’t respond well to treatments targeting HER2 protein.

Ahmed’s research focuses on a specific protein, UNC45A, that can be used as a promising novel immunotherapeutic target. He and his lab team hypothesize that by inhibiting this protein it will block the growth of cancer cells and activate the immune system to eliminate tumors.

“We believe this protein is an exciting alternative target to develop more efficient treatment of breast cancer,” he said.

Ahmed started his research nearly 22 years ago as a postdoctoral fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Over the years, he has dissected the biochemical and cell biological functions of this protein. More recently, he has genetically engineered sophisticated tools that allow testing of the impact of inhibiting this protein in mice, the release said.

The next step for him and his team is to identify small molecules or antibodies that will assist them in inhibiting the protein in humans.

He hopes to have the project in the clinical trials stage in the next five to 10 years.

“The impact of this work on human health will be — we hope and believe — very significant,” he said.

The National Cancer Institute, NCI, is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. This funding agency follows a rigorous and highly competitive process to select promising cancer research proposals for funding across the nation.

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