MU researcher close to solving problem for cancer patients

December 11, 2013, University of Missouri-Columbia

Patients with cancer and other long-term debilitating diseases often have additional problems. Many cancer patients, and those with other chronic diseases, can experience a wasting disease, cachexia anorexia, which causes the body to consume its own organs. Now, a University of Missouri researcher is beginning to plan for clinical trials with a drug that could block the cachexia from occurring, giving physicians additional time and treatment options for their patients.

"When people get the flu, they typically have difficulty eating for several days; yet their metabolisms will increase and their muscle mass will decrease disproportionately compared to their reduced food intake," said Ken Gruber, professor of pharmacology and physiology and president/CEO of Tensive Controls Inc. "Now, imagine that scenario over the course of several months or years; that is what happens to . The body's metabolism increases when people become afflicted with certain diseases, resulting in the need for more calories. With cachexia, no matter how much nutrition a body is given, it will continue to need more, thus leading the body to look for other sources of nutrients, which could include the heart, liver, kidneys and other organs."

Gruber, who has obtained several patents on his work and who also holds an appointment at the MU Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, and other researchers found that the melanocortin system in the brain drives the body's metabolism. Previously, drugs that attempted to control metabolism also produced cardiovascular . Gruber and his colleagues found a solution by developing a drug that controlled without producing significant side effects. Further, the drug was designed around a substance already familiar to the body and only stays in the system a short time.

A University of Missouri researcher is beginning to plan for clinical trials with a drug that could block cachexia, a wasting disease, from occurring in cancer patients, giving physicians additional time and treatment options. Credit: Nathan Hurst/University of Missouri

"Chemists often try to fight the body with drugs developed through some type of molecular chemistry, typically producing a molecule the body has never seen before," Gruber said. "As the drug creates a beneficial reaction, the body is stressed as it attempts to excrete the drug, a substance it has never seen before. Our drug is a peptide, essentially a very small protein. This class of compounds is very familiar to the body. Peptides stay in the for short periods of time, have no significant side effects and are easily excreted."

To develop the drug, Gruber founded Tensive Controls Inc., a biotech company focused on commercializing the discovery to benefit patients who have cancer and other debilitating diseases. In order to move this drug to the marketplace, Gruber utilized the expertise and assistance at the MU Life Science Business Incubator at Monsanto Place. Gruber expects the to be available to treat dogs in mid-to-late 2014, and he is currently in communication with the FDA to determine their requirements for human , possibly by 2015.

"The university has been very supportive of the business incubator, opening all of its core facilities to the resident companies," Gruber said. "I believe it is unusual to find a cooperative agreement that exists between a business incubator and a university similar to the one that exists between this incubator and the University of Missouri."

Explore further: Molecular effectiveness of peptides from African medicinal plants decoded

Related Stories

Molecular effectiveness of peptides from African medicinal plants decoded

November 22, 2013
Peptides are autologous substances that are formed from amino acids, are able to trigger specific reactions in the human body and can influence a variety of physical functions. Cyclical plant peptides, known as cyclotides, ...

Cancer wasting due in part to tumor factors that block muscle repair, study shows

October 23, 2013
A new study reveals that tumors release factors into the bloodstream that inhibit the repair of damaged muscle fibers, and that this contributes to muscle loss during cancer wasting. The condition, also called cancer cachexia, ...

Drug interactions causing a significant impact on statin use

November 25, 2013
A new study has found that many people who stopped taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs were also taking an average of three other drugs that interfered with the normal metabolism of the statins.

Why combination drug treatment ineffective in cancer clinical trials

December 5, 2013
Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered that combination drug therapy didn't work well in clinical trials for cancer patients because one drug was making the other drug ineffective.

Liver controls wasting in cancer: Overactive gene switch in the liver causes blood fat levels to drop

January 14, 2013
Many cancer patients suffer from a dramatic loss of fat and muscle mass. This extreme wasting, or cachexia, is often the actual cause of death in cancer patients. Heidelberg scientists have now discovered in mice that tumors ...

Recommended for you

Scientists zoom in to watch DNA code being read

January 17, 2018
Scientists have unveiled incredible images of how the DNA code is read and interpreted—revealing new detail about one of the fundamental processes of life.

T-cells engineered to outsmart tumors induce clinical responses in relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma

January 16, 2018
WASHINGTON-(Jan. 16, 2018)-Tumors have come up with ingenious strategies that enable them to evade detection and destruction by the immune system. So, a research team that includes Children's National Health System clinician-researchers ...

Researchers identify new treatment target for melanoma

January 16, 2018
Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have identified a new therapeutic target for the treatment of melanoma. For decades, research has associated female sex and a history of previous ...

More evidence of link between severe gum disease and cancer risk

January 16, 2018
Data collected during a long-term health study provides additional evidence for a link between increased risk of cancer in individuals with advanced gum disease, according to a new collaborative study led by epidemiologists ...

Researchers develop a remote-controlled cancer immunotherapy system

January 15, 2018
A team of researchers has developed an ultrasound-based system that can non-invasively and remotely control genetic processes in live immune T cells so that they recognize and kill cancer cells.

Dietary fat, changes in fat metabolism may promote prostate cancer metastasis

January 15, 2018
Prostate tumors tend to be what scientists call "indolent" - so slow-growing and self-contained that many affected men die with prostate cancer, not of it. But for the percentage of men whose prostate tumors metastasize, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.