Extensive translational research (bench to bedside) studies are underway in the Department of Surgical Oncology. Briefly, these include discovery of new anticancer drugs both from bacterial and plant sources. Low molecular weight protein(s) secreted by pathogenic bacteria have been isolated. These bacterial redox proteins have cancer-killing properties. Their ability to control breast cancer and melanoma is under investigation. Similarly, an agent obtained from the birch tree has melanoma-killing ability. This compound is now in clinical trial. A vitamin D analog is currently being reviewed by the FDA, and once FDA approval is obtained will be in clinical trial for treatment of advanced breast cancer. In a similar vein, advances in the treatment of sarcomas and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract are being sought.
Basic scientists in the department are not only investigating the mechanisms of progression of these cancers but also the applicability of new molecular markers for estimation of prognosis. They are also involved in identifying newer chemopreventive agents.
The Department of Surgical Oncology at UIC is unique inasmuch as both surgical oncologists and basic scientists work in proximity and close collaboration. This collaboration results in successful bench to bedside research.