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6Tho Daily Tar HeelThursday, October 6, 1983
Protein may block cancer defenses
By CINDY DUNLEVY
For years, researchers have tried to solve the
mystery of why the body is unable to fight cancer
cells. And now, scientists at Duke University
Medical Center say they may have found the
Several years ago an observation at Duke
University Medical Center showed that cancer
patients suffered from an immune deficiency that
prevented the fighting of malignant cells. But
after surgical removal of these tumor cells, the
immune system regained its force.
Now scientists at the Duke Medical Center,
Drs. Ralph Snyderman and George Cianciolo,
have found a protein that envelops the tumor
cells and diverts normal attacking defenses from
the cancerous area. This protein shields the
tumor from the body's natural defense
macrophages, large trackers and devourers of
foreign materials in the body, Snyderman said.
The protein surrounding the cell sends signals
tricking the immune system into allowing the cells
to remain, he said. The macrophages believe the
cancer to be a normal part of the body, so it
"This protein is similar to those found in
cancer-producing viruses that enter the body, so
the protein is synthesized by the tumor cells
themselves," Snyderman said.-
Tumor cells sustain their growth against the
body's miraculous immune system with chemical
signals, which they send to the macrophages, he
said. With no command to attack, the
macrophages simply do not recognize any foreign
The Duke scientists recently found this protein
in laboratory mice, but 1970 marked the begin
ning of these initial studies.
Snyderman began in the early '70s with the
study of chemotactic responses, white blood cell
responses to chemical signals.
Cianciolo joined the team of researchers in
1978. "When I came to the lab, this research was
the major direction of the laboratory," he said.
"You get a good feeling, especially when you ,
know that your paper is going to be published." '
Snyderman is professor of medicine and chief V
of the rheumatic and genetic disease division at
Duke. "Rheumatic diseases are generally those
associated with arthritis, but they are any inflam
matory disease," Snyderman said.
Working with the Duke scientists were Drs.
Mark E. Lobstrom and Milton Tarn of Genetic
Systems Inc. of Seattle.
Other research in the Division of Rheumatic
and Genetic Diseases includes work with
monoclonal antibodies headed by Dr. Barton
Haynes. His work concerns understanding viral
effects on human cells which could prove vital in
diagnosing and treating leukemia. Duke is now
among the nation's leaders in the study of
Drugs submitted to FDA
Treatment for herpes virus developed
By CINDY DUNLEVY
A new form of an anti-herpes
drug and a new type of anti
depressant have been submitted by
Burroughs Wellcome to the Federal
Burroughs Wellcome, a phar
maceutical research center in
Research Triangle Park, has submit
ted the oral form of Zovirax, which
will be prescribed to treat and
manage Herpes Simplex virus infec
tions. In March 1982, the FDA approv
ed Zovirax (Acyclovir is the generic)
in its ointment form, making it the
first approved drug for genital
herpes, a virus which afflicts 25
million people in the United States.
There are many over-the-counter
drugs claiming to work against
herpes, but Zovirax is still the only
FDA-approved drug used in
hospitals and by prescription to fight
against herpes viruses.
The FDA also has approved the
intravenous form of Zovirax, which
helps manage chronic infections in
hospitalized patients. In patients
whose own natural defenses are sup
pressed, Zovirax can be life
sustaining. For a child being treated for
leukemia, a cold sore (Herpes
Simplex I) can become disfiguring
and even fatal since his immune
system is suppressed by
Also, the immune systems of
transplant patients are artifically
suppressed to keep their bodies from
rejecting organs. Zovirax is used to
ward off Herpes infections in these
About 200,000 people develop
herpes when their immune systems
are impaired, and for 20 percent the
virus proves to be fatal.
Terri Creagh-Kirk, a clinical scien
tist at Burroughs Wellcome, said
Zovirax has prevented reoccurrence
of the herpes infection in 85 percent
of the people treated with the oint
ment and intravenous forms.
"These were people who had
chronic lesions each time," Creagh-
Kirk said. "These people treat every
episode of the herpes infection, and
we are hoping the virus will deplete
itself as the chemical in Zovirax at
tacts the invaded cells."
Herpes invades normal cells by
traveling along nerve fibers and
entering the ganglion, which is a
bundle of nerves near the spinal col
umn. There the virus lies dormant
until stimulated to travel again
across nerve fibers where it returns
to the skin. The infection then in
vades a new cell.
Dahnie King, former head of Bur
roughs Wellcome Medical Virology
Section, said the herpes virus, when
stimulated to cross the nerve fibers,
converts Zovirax to a form that is
toxic to the virus cell itself. King said
there is no evidence that Zovirax will
eliminate the virus from the body,
but it attacks it and keeps it from
The advantage of the oral form of
Zovirax is its speed in entering the
bloodstream and its preventing the
virus from spreading.
The oral capsule may be available
some time in 1983, King said.
The other drug Burroughs
Wellcome has under FDA review is
an anti-depressant. A number of
anti-depressants are available, but
Burrough's new Well-Botrin has
fewer side effects. "One thing, it
doesn't cause you to feel very
drowsy, and it doesn't make you feel
hungry. It slightly suppresses the ap
petite," Creagh-Kirk said. "You
know you take an anti-depressant
and gain weight then get depressed
all over again. It can be vicious."
Also, Well-Botrin is an alternative
for those who cannot tolerate other
anti-depressants. Well-Botrin does
not increase the heart rate as others
do, so it is very effective for the
Burroughs Wellcome has 1,071
employees, and all profits go back
into the company for more research.
The center is one of the best
equipped in the United States for
biological research and houses
researchers from all over the world.
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A white mouse helps test a research hypothesis. Duke scientists believe a protein recently
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Kimberly Tanner, a research technician in a cancer research laboratory at Duke University, pipettes radioactively
labeled proteins. She is preparing them for further analysis in ongoing scientific studies in the Research Triangle area.
By CINDY DUNLEVY
Possums, pines and Ph.D.'s is how U.S.
News and World Report describes the
Research Triangle Park (RTP).
Nestled deep in North Carolina's tran
quil greenery are some 33 pure research
companies busy with discovery. The
"goodliest land," which for ages was
known only for its poor economy and
farming, is luring scientists from all over
the world with this research network.
The Research Triangle Park, the largest
pure research park in the United States,
and the Triangle area rank first in per
capita level of Ph.D.'s in the country.
This influx of talent is something new
for North Carolina since for years its main
industry has been the education of other
states' students. (North Carolina has a
higher concentration of colleges and
universities than any other state.)
Now the home folks are returning.
Tom Wooten, executive assistant at the
Research Triangle Institute, said after
graduation from Duke University he
thought opportunities for engineering were
best found out of state. But then his father
sent him an article about RTP. "He (his
dad) said there might be some oppor
tunities here in North Carolina by the time
I got my Ph.D. He was right," Wooten
told U.S. News and World Report.
Wooten had good offers outside the South
but wanted to remain with RTP. "I like to
fish," he added. "In just a little time, you
can drive to the Outer Banks."
Twenty years ago, Governor Luther
Hodges encouraged the three surrounding
universities, Duke, N.C. State and UNC,
to initiate planning of a research park. He
said the universities could attract buyers
and make money. However, the profit
making motive faded and the focus
became non-profit, concentrating on
higher research possibilities.
Today RTP includes the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration,
Union Carbide Corp., Environmental
Protection Agency and Research Center,
Burroughs Wellcome Co. and General
Electric Research Laboratories.
UNC President William Friday said in
1978 that he saw growth of the Park even
tually opening a single academic umbrella
"where different research and findings
could complement each other.
Blood researcher to be honored
Fruits of his works have circled the
globe, touching millions of people who
suffer from the bleeding disorder
World-renowned for his pioneering
work in blood coagulation. Dr. Ken
neth M. . Brinkhous will be honored
Oct. 29 with the dedication of the
Brinkhous-Bullitt Building. Brinkhous
has devoted nearly half a century to in
vestigating blood-clotting mechanisms
and treatment of hemophilia.
Research by Brinkhous and others in
hemophilia has made The Comprehen
sive Hemophilia Center at UNC one of
the largest centers in the world treat
ing and researching bleeding dis
In 1953 Brinkhous, Dr. Robert
Langell- and Dr. Robert Wagner
developed a major breakthrough in
diagnosing bleeding diseases.
In a UNC news release, Dr. Harold
Roberts, former director of the UNC
Hemophilia Center, estimated this test
is run of 4,000 people a month at the
N.C. Memorial Hospital Clinical
"The test is simple, versatile and ac
curate," Roberts said. "I can't begin to
calculate how many times the test has
been used around the world."