WRI, Pitt-Johnstown Partnership Results in Cancer Research Manuscript Publication


posted February 23, 2016

A joint venture by Windber Research Institute (WRI) and University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has led to the publication of a manuscript in the Journal of Translational Medicine. The research, titled Inhibition of cancer cell growth by ruthenium complexes, was published February 12, 2016, and capped a four-year study.

A team led by Lisa Bell-Loncella, associate professor and Chemistry Department chair at Pitt-Johnstown, and George Iida, director of cell biology at WRI, hypothesized that some metal-containing complexes recently reported in the literature might have potential in treating breast cancer.

Two Pitt-Johnstown students, Marc Purazo and Yifeng Lu began experiments in the WRI facilities to test the hypothesis. They found that one complex showed significant growth inhibition against various cancer cells, including breast and bone cancers, and also melanoma and lymphoma. Purazo, who is now a research associate at WRI, demonstrated that the complex inhibited the production of growth factors that are important for establishing tumor metastasis.

“Although prior researchers have published similar results, it was exciting for us on several fronts,” said Bell-Loncella. We were able to replicate the research and, most importantly, we had identified a great collaboration opportunity for a faculty member at Pitt-Johnstown and a researcher at WRI while involving students in the process. Also, with this success we are exploring the possibility of other compounds (new and not previously reported in literature) to study.”

Janet L. Grady, vice president for Academic Affairs and chair for the Nursing and Health Sciences Division at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, said, “The work of Dr. Iida and Dr. Bell-Loncella is a model for the type of academic and scientific collaboration we had in mind when we developed the partnership between Pitt-Johnstown and WRI in 2012. While their work represents a significant contribution to the scientific literature, it is also providing valuable experiential learning opportunities for Pitt-Johnstown students.”