HSC faculty receives U.S. patent for cancer-fighting therapy

SBS Dr. Porunelloor and Stephen Mathew

When patients are diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer, the treatment course is typically surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these.

Now, two researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth are working toward a future where patients can be cured in a matter of days with immunotherapy.

Porunelloor Mathew, PhD, Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Genetics, and Stephen Mathew, PhD, Assistant Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Genetics, School of Biomedical Sciences, are now one step closer to that goal after recently receiving a U.S. patent for their therapy, “Compositions and methods for activation of NK cells killing of prostate and breast cancer cells.”

The two have been working together on cancer research for the last 20 years, with specific interest in the body’s natural killer, or “NK” cells, and harnessing their potential to cure certain cancers.

“We want to focus now on breast and prostate cancers,” said Dr. Porunelloor Mathew. “They are some of the most common cancers among women and men, respectively, so we have the biggest chance to make a significant impact.”

“In the traditional treatments for these cancers, while most of the cancer cells are killed, there is damage to the healthy cells as well,” he explained. “But when the cancer cells escape from traditional treatments, there is opportunity for the disease to return or metastasize to other parts of the body.”

“The advantage to immunotherapy with NK cells is that they seek out and kill all of the cancer cells, even those that are hidden, so the cancer cannot continue to grow.”

With the patent awarded, the next step for the doctors is to develop this immunotherapy to be compatible for use in humans and take it to clinical trials within the next three to four years.

“If it works, we’ve seen the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fast-track the approval process,” said Dr. Stephen Mathew. “Our previous discovery has been similarly approved by FDA in the treatment of multiple myeloma, another type of cancer, and the success rates have been significant.”

“There is great potential for harnessing NK cells to cure different cancers. With immunotherapy, we are not using harsh chemicals. We’re making it possible for the body to boost its own immune system,” he added. “Ultimately, nature has its own way of curing — we are just creating a pathway for nature to take its course.”

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