Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers to study the epigenetic mechanisms that drive these cancers.
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers to study the epigenetic mechanisms that drive these cancers. Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers Lluis Morey, Ph.D., and Ramiro Verdun, Ph.D., have received a $1.8 million NIH R01 grant to study the epigenetic mechanisms that drive head and neck cancers.
“Around 20% of patients who have head and neck cancer have mutations in the protein histone H3 or the epigenetic enzyme NSD1,” said Dr. Morey, assistant professor in the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Very little is known about how these mutations affect them. We want to understand how mutations in these genes impact head and neck cancer progression, and potentially find therapeutic targets.”
At present, head and neck cancer patients receive chemotherapy, but there are no targeted therapies currently approved for them. The researchers believe that some of these patients might respond to PARP inhibitors, which are presently approved to treat ovarian, prostate and other cancers.
Because these drugs have already been proven safe in previous clinical trials, it’s possible they could be fast-tracked for head and neck cancers if the evidence warrants it.
“We think we may have found a new way to treat a significant number of head and neck cancer patients,” said Dr. Morey. “However, first we must do the research to delineate these mechanisms and understand how these epigenetic changes affect cancer patients.”