Grant to aid cancer treatment research

Laura Rutledge and Dr. Andras Lacko

An experimental vaccine gave Carley Rutledge the chance to live a full life after Ewing’s sarcoma nearly took it away when she was 15.

Now 20, she’s a college student studying conservation biology and chemistry.

The same positive outlook could one day be shared by other young adult cancer survivors thanks to research being conducted at UNT Health Science Center. A $60,000 grant from the Rutledge Foundation is helping Dr. Andras Lacko, Professor of Physiology and Pediatrics, further his research on a drug-carrying delivery system that targets and destroys cancer cells. The hope is that this novel approach will one day be used to treat Ewing’s sarcoma.

The Lipoprotein Cancer Therapeutics lab, which recently opened at UNTHSC, will provide Dr. Lacko with more space and a larger staff to further his research in developing a way to use “good cholesterol” nanoparticles to selectively destroy tumors.

“It’s clear that cancer is an extremely complex disease, and the cells have many unique properties,” he said. “We want to see if find a better treatment with nanoparticles for this type of cancer.”

Over 30 years there has been little improvement in the treatment of Ewing’s sarcoma, said Laura Rutledge, the Foundation’s executive director and Carley’s mother.

“They basically give these kids as much chemo as they can tolerate before it kills them,” she said. “The lack of improvement in therapies and dangerous side effects is what drove me to start the Foundation.”

The non-profit organization funds immune-based targeted therapies because that is where the future of cancer treatment lies, Mrs. Rutledge said.

“Dr. Lacko’s research appealed to us because he’s using a natural process in the body as a vehicle for chemo so it goes straight to cancer without harming other cells,” she said.

The drug delivery method being studied by Dr. Lacko is anticipated to spare patients from the harmful effects of chemotherapy. He is studying ovarian and prostate cancer and now Ewing’s sarcoma.

“We are very fortunate to get this support,” he said. “It allows us to continue doing what we believe will be helpful in the treatment of cancer.”

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