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University of North Florida researchers discover cancer-fighting compound, receive patent

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Inside the Knuckley lab at the University of North Florida, there’s groundbreaking research to fight cancer that could soon catch the eyes of the nation’s top pharmaceutical companies, according to our sister-station WJAX news.

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Researchers discovered a cancer-fighting compound and received a patent for it, using peptoids to potentially treat cancer patients.

“Hopefully a patient that comes up with breast cancer or some kind of colon cancer, this drug is available to them, they can ingest that, it’ll go in, target those cancer cells, and kill the cells,” Dr. Bryan Knuckley said.

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Professor and Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dr. Bryan Knuckley, says they look at protein arginine methyltransferases, known as PRMT’s, which he says are enzymes that carry out chemical reactions.

“These proteins in your body can either be overexpressed or just really active and when they do you get more of these marks put on other proteins, that turns on other cancers,” he said.

The project has been going on since 2012 and as a research institution, Dr. Knuckley says it highlights what the university can do.

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He showed us how it works inside the lab on the UNF campus.

“When we make these compounds, we put them on really small beads, really really tiny beads and the compounds, the peptoids are made on the bead,” he said.

One station to the next, from creating to testing.

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“We would basically take one tube essentially with our protein of interest, one tube with our compound that we made in lab to test, and then add those together, we allow those to react and we can measure how well that compound works with that protein,” he said.

UNF officials say no other university is conducting this type of study and as they’re in the early stages, it’s something that Dr. Knuckley hopes one day will become a pharmaceutical drug cancer patients can take.

“The fact we created a compound that no one else isolated before and shows it works in cancer cells hopefully moves us one step closer to treating those diseases,” he said.

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