Glioblastoma Research Funding Continues for Lawrence Pfeffer, PhD

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Funding continues for Lawrence Pfeffer’s glioblastoma research through a three-year grant of $458,595 from the National Cancer Institute, in collaboration with Steven Ripp, PhD, research associate professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Lawrence Pfeffer, PhD

For more than 30 years, Pfeffer, PhD, the Muirhead Professor in the Department of Pathology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has dedicated his career to brain cancer research.

His commitment to advances in treatment for glioblastoma, a form of adult brain cancer, stems from the loss of a colleague who died from the disease.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, glioblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor among adults and accounts for 47.7% of all cases. Survival rate is low: 40% in the first-year post diagnosis and 17% in the second year.

His research will use a novel approach in bioluminescence reaction. Bioluminescence is a powerful approach for in vivo brain imaging, however according to Dr. Pfeffer, it has several major shortcomings, including overcoming the blood-brain barrier to deliver the light activating substrate for the bioluminescence reaction to occur.

“This research grant will take a different route by eliminating the need to externally administer a light activating substrate to drive the bioluminescent reaction,” Dr. Pfeffer said.

Previous studies in Dr. Ripp’s lab have shown that they successfully created a synthetic version of a gene, called the lux operon, and demonstrated its capacity to generate bioluminescence autonomously in human cells.

“This imaging strategy allows cells to emit a low-background, high-resolution auto bioluminescent signal that can be dynamically tracked across the lifetime of the cell, without substrate addition or sample destruction,” Dr. Pfeffer said. “This novel imaging approach can help in the testing of small molecule inhibitors, and thus could result in a novel, and desperately needed, therapeutic approaches for this devastating form of cancer.”