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Developmental Drug Helps Protect Against Radiation Damage, Pitt Researchers Find


DENVER, April 22, 2009 – A drug currently under development at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine protects cells from the damaging effects of radiation exposure, a new study suggests. Results of the study, Abstract Number 3456, are being presented at the 100th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), April 18 to 22 in Denver.

The study, led by Joel Greenberger, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Pitt, is overseen by Pitt's Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation. The center is dedicated to identifying and developing small molecule radiation protectors and mitigators that can be easily accessed and administered in the event of a large-scale radiological or nuclear emergency.

JP4-039 assists the mitochondria, the energy generator of all cells, in combating irradiation-induced cell death. For this study, cells treated immediately after irradiation with JP4-039 demonstrated significant radioprotection, suggesting a potential role for the drug as a mitigator of radiation damage.

"Currently, no drugs on the market counteract the effects of radiation exposure," said Dr. Greenberger. "We know this drug can counteract the damage caused by irradiation, and now we want to develop the ideal dosage, one that is effective for the general population while remaining non-toxic. Our goal is to take this drug through a phase I clinical trial and, once the dosage is established, develop the drug for late-stage clinical trials and market licensing."

This study was funded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Department of Health and Human Services. Last year, BARDA awarded Dr. Greenberger and members of his lab $2.7 million to help develop a radiation mitigator drug that could counter the effects of radiation exposure in case of large-scale public exposure. The ultimate goal of the contract is to develop an easily administered drug that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Department of Health and Human Services (http://www.cdc.gov) can store and fly to hospitals and care facilities if and when an emergency occurs.

As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1997 and currently ranks fifth in the nation, according to preliminary data for fiscal year 2008. Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region's economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see www.medschool.pitt.edu.

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UPMC Media Relations