September 1, 2014  

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Southern Miss Research Team Studying New Cancer Drug Therapy

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Polymer researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi are studying new drug delivery methods for cancer patients. (University Communications photo)

Polymer researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi are conducting studies that could revolutionize the drug delivery process for cancer patients.

A research team under the direction of Dr. Daniel Savin is hoping to create a cancer treatment that will deliver drug therapies to targeted locations, instead of current treatments that impact almost every organ in the body.

“The idea here is we want to create a polymeric vehicle that can do the same job, but only deliver to the cancer tumor,” said Savin, assistant professor of polymer science.

Savin's team is using its vast knowledge of polymers to study how specifically developed proteins can respond to a variety of conditions in the body. This represents a different take on what is usually associated with commercially developed plastics.

“Instead of looking at plastic sheets for example, we are more interested in the properties of these polymers and what they do in solution, in the bloodstream, in serum, under different types of conditions,” Savin said.

Ashley Johnson, a fifth-year Southern Miss graduate student, spends countless hours engaged this ground-breaking research project. This particular project hits very close to home for Johnson.

“My mom actually was diagnosed with multiple myeloma about two years ago,” Johnson said. “So my research as far as the drug delivery, especially accentuating the chemotherapy aspect, means a lot to me now.”

Johnson notes that the idea of creating a more efficient drug delivery method serves as a daily inspiration.

“We know the chemotherapy does kill the cancer cells, and it is a good thing, but anybody walking the streets can see the negative side effects, people losing their hair and how sick they get,” Johnson said. “So just to know that we can help somebody out, especially now that I see my mom and how miserable you can be, maybe to make life a little bit more enjoyable, it makes everything worth the headache for sure.”

To learn more about the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at The University of Southern Mississippi, call 601.266.4868 or visit: http://www.usm.edu/polymer

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