Poster Presentation: Mohammad Alsaggar, Quin Yao, and Dexi Liu

Poster presentation: Differential growth and responsiveness to cancer therapy of tumor cells in different environments

Mohammad Alsaggar, Quin Yao, and Dexi Liu
Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, UGA College of Pharmacy

Story by Liz Best

Location, it turns out, is as important for cancer cells as it is for real estate.

This is what fifth-year doctoral student Mohammad Alsaggar has concluded after two years of research in the laboratory of Dr. Dexi Liu, head of the Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences department at UGA.

His hypothesis was that current anticancer therapies could be deployed more effectively if oncologists knew which treatments were most likely to work in which tumor sites.

To test this idea, Alsaggar and his colleagues in the Liu laboratory used melanoma cells to induce simultaneous tumor growth in the liver, lungs and kidneys of mice.. He then tracked how the tumor cells grew and compared their responses to gene therapy or two standard chemotherapy drugs.

At the outset, the melanoma tumors grow faster in the liver than in the lungs and kidneys. But then lung and kidney malignancies had a growth spurt.

Alsaggar hit tumors in all three locations with the beta interferon gene and with DTIC, a chemotherapy drug used for melanoma and Hodgkin’s disease. “We concluded that total elimination of melanoma tumors in different organs requires combined drugs, and not a single agent, because tumors are different when growing in different organs,” said Alsaggar.

All the drugs helped to some degree, but none of the tumors were completely eradicated. “Total elimination of tumors could not be achieved. However, a significant fraction (80%) of tumors in liver and kidneys were eliminated using the gene therapy approach,” said Alsaggar.

He believes this research could be put into practice by oncologists. “Our work suggests an urgent need for clinical practitioners to consider differential tumor biology when growing in different organs, and to preclude one-size-fits-all therapies,” said Alsaggar.

This work was published in Clinical & Experimental Metastasis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26476830

Liz Best is a first-year graduate student in journalism at UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and a reporter for Graduate Newsroom.