Korean American Dr. Jung-Mo Ahn part of Dallas research team that created molecule that kills hard-to-treat cancers

Dr. Jung-Mo Ahn, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, at the University of Texas at Dallas campus in Richardson. Ahn and his team have synthesized a molecule that can kill a variety of cancer cells. Ahn began working as a professor at UTD in 2004.(Rebecca Slezak / DMN Staff Photographer)

Researchers from two North Texas universities have created a molecule that kills a spectrum of hard-to-treat cancers, including an aggressive form of breast cancer. Their work was published in the journal Nature Cancer.

The researchers tested the molecule in isolated cells, human cancer tissue and in mice, with a goal to test in humans by mid-2023. They hope their work could eventually lead to treatments that make a difference in the lives of patients that suffer from these cancers.

“What motivates me now is, it’s not just [that] we understand a particular thing scientifically,” said Jung-Mo Ahn, an associate chemistry professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and an author on the study. “We realize that this molecule could be very useful, and it can help other people’s lives.”

Ahn worked with UT Southwestern Medical Center professor Dr. Ganesh Raj and Ratna Vadlamudi from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio on the research.

In his lab at UTD, Ahn creates tiny molecules that can have a large impact on how our bodies fight diseases like cancer. He tries to prevent molecular “handshakes” between proteins that lead to uncontrollable cell growth and cancer spread.

“It’s almost like two elephants are hugging each other,” he said, “and you’re throwing a pebble to stop them.”

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Dallas researchers create molecule that kills hard-to-treat cancers