Department of Chemistry awarded NIH research grant to help identify onset of cancer

Mary Kay Pflum, associate professor of the Department of Chemistry, received a $787,669 NIH grant for her research, titled "Identification of Histone Deacetylase Substrates using Trapping Mutants."

The technology Pflum is developing, which does not currently exist, aims to address a significant need in cell biology research. This substrate-trapping technology could help to uncover the full activities of the enzyme Histone Deactylase (HDAC), which will guide future drug design efforts.

"Histone deacetylase proteins are essential enzymes in cell biology and are also associated with the onset of cancer. In fact, four drugs that inhibit the enzymatic activity of histone deacetylase proteins are currently used clinically to treat T-cell lymphoma and multiple myeloma," said Pflum.

The Pflum Lab has been working to create a way to easily identify HDAC substrates using a method called "substrate-trapping." Over the last several years, The Pflum Lab has created over 70 potential substrate traps. This grant will allow the group to build on this work and ultimately create the first substrate-trapping mutants of HDAC proteins, which will result in the ability to identify HDAC substrates.

"This research will reveal the molecular mechanisms leading to cancer onset and progression, as well as develop new drugs to possibly treat cancers," said Pflum.

The project number for this NIH grant is 1R01GM121061-01.

By Carly Adams, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences communications associate

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