McMurry involvement in cancer research was showcased recently when student Heather Whitehead presented a poster on her research at the Undergraduate Research Day at the Texas Capitol on February 14, 2011. Texas Legislative representative for Abilene (District 71), Mrs. Susan King, stopped by to quiz Heather on her research. King, a registered nurse, was well prepared to discuss Heather’s project from an informed position. There were 81 posters from 53 schools at the event. Heather’s poster, entitled “Potential Anticancer Agents targeting Arginine Biosynthesis”, was one of three invited posters from Abilene Universities.
Heather’s research targets cancer, the second most common cause of death for Americans. An estimated 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the US during 2010. One of the most promising areas for the development of novel anti-cancer therapeutics is arginine biosynthesis. L-Arginine is the substrate of the enzyme arginase which converts it to orinithine. Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) then produces putrescine which is a precursor of polyamines. Based on this evidence, the research team hypothesizes that ODC inhibitors will reduce proliferation of cancer cells. They will present synthesis of a 2-amino-5-(hydroxyimino)pentanoic acid (AHPA) and biological activity with MCF-7 cells (Michigan Cancer Foundation – 7). The growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells in the presence of the compound AHPA appears to be significantly reduced. In addition, in the docking study of geometric isomers of AHPA oxime functionality, E isomer binding with ODC was determined to favorable over its Z-isomer. These results demonstrate that AHPA is a potent ODC inhibitor against cancer. Heather will continue to synthesize new ornithine analogs with various functional groups. Biological activities with different cancer cells will be investigated further. Dr. Hyunshun Shin, a faculty member in the McMurry Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, supervises the research. Dr. Spencer at the University of San Francisco has also contributed to this research.
Once again, students at McMurry stand toe-to-toe with those from the largest state universities in the quality of their educational and research experiences. Heather plans to attend pharmacy school upon graduation this May.