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Genomic instability research

Thursday, November 3, 2011

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Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office: 817-272-7075, Cell: 214-546-1082,

A UT Arlington bioengineering researcher has secured two new grants worth $1.13 million to track how cancerous cells damaged by radiation therapy work to repair themselves and apply that system to research focused on better cancer care.

George Alexandrakis, an assistant professor of bioengineering, specializes in sub-cellular imaging and is collaborating on the project with David Chen, director of the Molecular Radiation Biology Division in Department of Radiation Oncology, at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“Ultimately, we want to kill cancer cells more efficiently and save the good cells,” Alexandrakis said.

The first grant – a $342,000 National Institutes of Health award – charges Alexandrakis with creating a system to measure how fast certain proteins come and go in a cell’s nucleus as they are trying to repair DNA.

A second, $789,000 grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, will enable Alexandrakis to apply the technique he develops for imaging repair activity within a cell to work conducted by other members of Chen’s Texas research team, which include faculty from UT Southwestern, UT MD Anderson Center and UT Austin.

One challenge in treating cancer is that tumors are often embedded in otherwise healthy tissue, Alexandrakis said. Radiation therapy often destroys healthy cells near bad ones. It also leads to “misrepaired” DNA in some cells, which can become aberrant cancer cells that resist therapy.

Chen said the partnership with Alexandrakis has been mutually beneficial.

“I needed someone who knows optical physics and imaging,” Chen said. “George is an expert in that field. He knows the hardware, the software and the pictures that need to be taken.”

Khosrow Behbehani, chair of the UT Arlington Bioengineering Department, said Alexandrakis’ collaborative research sparks the “the kind of innovation that springs from a world-class research institution.”

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