$250K Grant Supports Examination of Drug Compound on Common Cancer Mutation

Award from Breast Cancer Research Foundation supports Rutgers Cancer Institute investigator
October 3, 2016

Darren Carpizo, MD, PhDNew Brunswick, N.J. – A $250,000 grant awarded to Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey surgical oncologist Darren R. Carpizo, MD, PhD, will further aid the work of the physician-scientist in exploration of mechanisms behind the p53 gene – which is the most commonly mutated gene in human cancer.  The funding from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation will help Dr. Carpizo build upon previous research from his laboratory examining a drug compound that restores tumor suppressor function of p53, with an aim of providing a foundation for the development of a new type of anti-cancer drug.

Known as the “guardian of the human genome,” the p53 gene recognizes cellular stress and stops cell proliferation by either allowing the cell to recover from the stress or activating a protein that induces a program to kill the cell if the damage can’t be repaired. The loss of this function can result in cancer cells escaping a controlled environment and multiplying throughout the body. Previous research by Carpizo’s laboratory identified a drug compound that restores this tumor suppressor function by targeting a common p53 mutation.  Along with restoring structure and function to the p53 mutant protein, this drug compound has the ability to to activate a program that selectively kills cancer cells with this particular mutation while leaving normal cells undisturbed.  The mechanism behind this action is characterized as a “zinc metallochaperone” and is considered novel.

This latest grant will fund research to determine the application of zinc metallochaperones in breast cancer.  One form of breast cancer called “triple negative” breast cancer is known for its biological aggressiveness and lack of effective chemotherapy options.  The preliminary data that Carpizo and colleagues have generated suggest that zinc metallochaperones have activity and that breast cancers with a mutation in the BRCA1 gene are particularly sensitive to zinc metallochaperones.  These ideas will be explored further in this grant.

“Restoring the tumor suppressor ability of p53 with a drug is paramount in anti-cancer drug development,” notes Carpizo, who is an associate professor of surgery and pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “By further examining zinc metallochaperones on other p53 mutants that are similarly structured, we have an opportunity to increase the potential pool of patients that could theoretically benefit from zinc metallochaperones resulting in broad activity against all cancer types. I am grateful to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for its support of this work.”

The laboratories of Stewart Loh, PhD, at SUNY Upstate Medical University and Rutgers Cancer Institute Associate Member David Augeri, PhD, from Rutgers Translational Sciences at Rutgers University are collaborating on the work. The project period runs for one year.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Rutgers Cancer Institute is dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and to serving as an education resource for cancer prevention both at its flagship New Brunswick location and at its Newark campus at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital. Physician-scientists across Rutgers Cancer Institute also engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice that supports patients on both campuses. To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 848-932-8013 or visit Follow us on Facebook at

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Affiliate Hospitals: JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset.

About BCRF
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) is committed to being the end of breast cancer by advancing the world's most promising research. Founded by Evelyn H. Lauder in 1993, BCRF-funded investigators have been deeply involved in every major breakthrough in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. In 2015-2016, BCRF invested $54 million to support the work of more than 240 scientists at leading medical and academic institutions across 13 countries, making BCRF the largest private funder of breast cancer research worldwide.   By committing 91 cents of every dollar directly to its mission, BCRF remains one of the nation's most fiscally responsible nonprofits. BCRF is the only breast cancer organization in the US with an "A+" from CharityWatch and has been awarded Charity Navigator’s highest rating of four stars 14 times since 2002. Visit to learn more.


Michele Fisher


precision medicine at Rutgers Cancer Institute







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