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Developmental Drug May Help Bone Fractures Heal After Radiation Exposure, Pitt Study Finds


PITTSBURGH, November 2, 2009 – A drug currently under development by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine may help bone fractures heal more quickly after radiation exposure, according to a study by Pitt researchers. The study's results will be presented at 1 p.m. today during the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting in Chicago

The drug, JP4-039, is a free-radical scavenger targeted to the mitochondria, the energy generator of all cells. For this study, researchers compared the healing time of fractures in a mouse model system treated immediately after radiation exposure with JP4-039 against a control group of mice that did not receive the drug. The fractured bones in the group treated with JP4-039 healed much more rapidly than the control group.

"This study has important implications on two levels," said study author Abhay S. Gokhale, MD, MBA, chief resident in the Department of Radiation Oncology. "From a patient care standpoint, this drug could eventually be beneficial to pediatric cancer patients who are vulnerable to the late effects of radiation treatment on bone growth and development. From an emergency response perspective, if the ideal dosage of the drug is developed and we find a way to have it easily administered, it could potentially help people exposed to radiation in an accident or attack."

The study, carried out in the laboratory of Joel Greenberger, MD, and Michael Epperly, PhD, with co-investigator Peter Wipf, PhD, in the Department of Chemistry 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.

Previous research conducted by this team showed that JP4-039 helps protect cells from the damaging effects of radiation.

This project has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. HHSO100200800062C.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

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 now 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.

UPMC Media Relations