Reagan Hales

TTUHSC School Of Pharmacy Researchers Discuss Breakthroughs At 15th Annual Research Symposium

The Amarillo community is brimming with generous volunteers, influential leaders and successful businesspeople. The people of Amarillo are what make our city unlike any other. With the AEDC guest blog posts, we hope to educate readers on our community as well as share valuable messages from Amarillo's key thinkers. This is a guest post by Sanjay K. Srivastava, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Sciences & University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Pharmacy, whose main campus is in Amarillo, is home to several high-caliber and internationally recognized scientists who are working toward understanding the physiology of various diseases, such as cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disorders, epilepsy and hypertension. These same researchers are also investigating the mechanisms of novel agents/drugs to find a cure for these diseases.

Sanjay-AEDC-Guest-Blog.jpgFor instance, Dr. Ruiwen Zhang and his research team discovered a new anticancer agent that targets MDM2, a known cancer-causing gene. MDM2 activation is linked to the poor response to treatment and poor prognosis in breast cancer patients, especially those with triple negative breast cancers (TNBC).

The researchers use a high-throughput screening and computer-aided rational drug design approach and discover a lead compound, called SP-141. This compound can directly bind to MDM2, induce its degradation and inhibit its cancer-related activity. SP-141 has strong anti-breast cancer activity in cultured TNBC cells and in animal models of human TNBC and metastasis with no apparent host toxicity. While further investigation is needed, the published data indicate that SP-141 is a novel targeted therapeutic agent that may especially benefit patients with advanced breast cancer.

Because TNBC is very difficult to treat and patient survival rates are poor, researchers looking for a successful treatment to halt metastasis to the brain have been challenged by the inability of anticancer agents to cross the blood-brain-barrier (BBB).

To combat this challenge, my own research team has been studying ways to bypass the BBB and prevent the metastasis process that is so often fatal. Because we know that antipsychotic drugs do reach the brain, we screened several of these drugs and found penfluridol to be effective in suppressing the growth of various TNBC cells. We were also able to demonstrate that oral administration of penfluridol suppresses the growth of breast tumors in the brain in various tumor models, and interestingly, we observed that some of the proteins, which are overexpressed in breast tumors and play role in metastasis, were suppressed by penfluridol treatment. In addition, our study currently indicates that long-term treatment with penfluridol does not appear to cause any toxicity or behavioral side effects.

To support this important research, the School of Pharmacy campus in Amarillo hosts Research Days, a school-wide interdisciplinary forum showcasing the school’s research activities. This annual event provides TTUHSC School of Pharmacy faculty, postdoctoral fellows, residents, graduate students and trainees an opportunity to present and share their exciting research findings. Research Days is also a wonderful opportunity for researchers from all four School of Pharmacy campuses — Amarillo, Lubbock, Dallas and Abilene — to come together under one roof to talk about research, exchange ideas and build collaborations and friendships.

research-days2.jpgThe 2016 event was held June 1-2 at the Amarillo Civic Center’s Heritage Room. Dr. Marcie A. Glicksman, vice president of biology at Orig3n, Inc., and Dr. Joseph Saseen, a professor for the Departments of Clinical Pharmacy and Family Medicine at the University of Colorado, were this year’s keynote speakers. Other distinguished speakers included Dr. Carlos Alvarez, Dr. Devin Lowe and Dr. Constantinos Mikelis from the TTUHSC School of Pharmacy. The Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health helped sponsor the event.

The highlight of Research Days is the research poster competition, which this year featured more than 65 entries. Poster presentation winners in the resident category included Andrew Johnson, Pharm.D., Nidhu Baby, Pharm.D., Katherine Kelly, Pharm.D. and Nephy Samuel, Pharm.D. Junior and senior graduate student winners included Md. Anwar Hossain, Yoonjung Lee, Alok Ranjan and A.G.M. Mostofa. Winners in the postdoctoral category included Raktima Bhattacharya, Ph.D.

As the important research continues at the TTUHSC School of Pharmacy, the Research Days Committee has already started planning the 2017 event when Amarillo will once again host some of the top scientists working to understand mankind’s most complicated diseases.

For more information about the research going on at the TTUHSC School of Pharmacy in Amarillo, please visit

Dr. Sanjay K. Srivastava is a professor of Biomedical Sciences at TTUHSC. He specializes in Cancer Biology, Chemoprevention and Therapeutics. In addition to authoring more than 125 research papers and serving as the editor for three books, his research work can be found on BBC, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and Science News.


Learn more about the tremendous impacts the TTUHSC School of Pharmacy is making with their research in the video below.


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