Neamati Wins $1M for Cancer Research

“New drugs are desperately needed to combat lung cancer,” professor Nouri Neamati said.

Photo/Kukla Vera

Nouri Neamati, assistant professor in the USC School of Pharmacy, has won the Department of Defense Idea Award in Ovarian Cancer and the Lung Cancer Discovery Award for his ongoing work in cancer research. The grants are for $815,000 and $200,000, respectively.

Neamati’s work is characterized by unique approaches in computer-aided drug design. His lab has identified a series of small-molecule agents with remarkable potency against various human cancer cell lines demonstrated in vitro and in mouse models. Of particular interest, two of the compounds showed significant activity in lung cancer while another was virulent against ovarian cancer cells.

“These awards make it possible for us to move these promising compounds into safety and efficacy tests in mouse models,” Neamati explained. “This phase of the research prepares the compounds for filing with the Food and Drug Administration and hopefully will lead to Phase I clinical trials in cancer patients.”

The compounds Neamati is studying are different in structure and function than known anti-cancer agents. This is of particular importance since many of the currently used anti-cancer agents are not effective against lung cancer.

“New drugs are desperately needed to combat lung cancer, currently the most common cancer killer,” Neamati said. “In 2006, lung cancer accounted for about 29 percent of all cancer deaths.”

The Lung Cancer Discovery Award was funded by the American Lung Association and the LUNGevity Foundation with support from the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

The Idea Award will allow Neamati to extend his research in ovarian cancer, focusing on one compound that exhibited exceptional effectiveness against the disease. Using mouse models, the work will dynamically evaluate the compound’s effect on the body and body’s effect on the compound.

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

“The funding that supports Nouri’s cancer research is a testament to the promise of his work,” said Sarah Hamm-Alvarez, chair of the department of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences and the Gavin S. Herbert Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

In addition to Neamati’s two new grants, his work also has support from the National Institutes of Health, the Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation, Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Whittier Foundation, the American Association of Cancer Research and the UniversityWide AIDS Research Program.