We’ve all heard of “Race for the Cure,” and many of us have run one of these well-known 5-K’s. Rahul Khupse, professor of pharmacy, is leading another kind of Race for the Cure, however. Together with faculty members Ryan Schneider and Richard Dudley and several pharmacy upperclassmen, he’s working to develop a drug that will combat breast cancer, the most deadly cancer among women.
It’s difficult to put Khupse’s objective into laymen’s terms, but he is working on synthesizing a compound that targets a specific estrogen receptor on breast cancers. Similar to the popular breast cancer treatment drug, Raloxifene, Khupse’s proposed drug will have more specificity.
“The more specific the drug, the fewer the side effects,” Khupse said.
Although found to significantly reduce invasive breast cancer in midlife and older women, Raloxifene can cause blood clots and other chemotherapy-related side effects. Khupse hopes his drug would also be simpler, specific to cancers and less expensive to produce.
According to Dr. Khupse there are several steps involved in getting a molecule from laboratory to patients. At the very first step a drug is designed and synthesized by medicinal chemist, which in this case Dr. Khupse achieved with a team of P-5 pharmacy students. In the next step the drug is tested on cancer cell lines and mice by pharmacologist, followed by human clinical trials.
Khupse presented research on this proposed “anti-cancer” drug at The University of Toledo on June 22, 2014. The occasion was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of UT’s Center for Drug Design and Development. He also accompanied UF students who presented the topic at Posters at the Capitol last spring.
“Taking a drug from bench to market can take 10-15years,” Khupse added. “I’ve been working in this area of research for last 10 years, including five years at The University of Findlay.”
Khupse has completed in vitro studies. The next step would be testing on animals. It’s still very far from approval and marketing.
“Our current Pharmacy 590 students will take this further,” he explained. “In the meantime, we’re working with Tricia Valasek on grant funding to help continue our work.”
A Complex Science
Unfortunately, finding that magic bullet; a vaccine for cancer prevention is far from reality. Meanwhile, we can focus on increasing survival of cancer patients and improving their quality of life.
As an instructor in the College of Pharmacy, he has encouraged students to explore careers in research and higher education.
“I tell them the difference between a good pharmacist and a mediocre pharmacist is that good pharmacists understand the science behind the drugs they are prescribing, A good pharmacist is always questioning and always looking for answers to those questions.”