BSU asst. professor awarded $50K to study negative side effects of highly effective chemo drug

Posted at 10:16 PM, Sep 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-06 00:17:22-04

BOISE, Idaho — Boise State University Assistant Research Professor Shin Pu was awarded a grant for $50,000 by the Idaho Institutional Development Award Network of Biomedical Research Excellence. The money is funding a pilot study on doxorubicin, which is highly effective in treating certain cancers but can also have fatal side effects.

“Doxorubicin is a drug, very effectively, you know, for treating some of the cancers,” said Shin Pu, Assistant Research Professor in the Biomolecular Research Center.

But the highly effective drug, doesn't come without problems.

“It unfortunately has something called a dose-related toxicity to the heart,” said Pu.

Which means that while it may be effective in treating certain types of leukemia, Hodgkin Lymphoma, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and gastric cancer, to name just a few; it could cause heart failure later down the road.

“This drug can cause the, damage to one very important, uh, cell type in the heart, called the fibroblast,” said Pu.

Doxorubicin is currently being used to treat certain cancers; Shin Pu said the benefits typically out-weight the risks. But when doctors are limited to a smaller dose, that impacts the effectiveness.

“We currently limit the dose to 400 to 450 mg per square meter,” said Pu.

So through testing on mice, Shin and his team are working to change that.

“We’re going to treat the mice with this drug, and then we can look at how this drug can do, uh, damages to the heart and the muscle cells, and the fibroblasts,” said Pu.

Then once they find the cause of the heart toxicity, they can then work on finding measures to prevent the fatal side effect when a patient takes doxorubicin.

The $50,000 grant will fund their primary research for one year, then Shin hopes to be able to attract more funding to continue studies on doxorubicin.