Dugoni School Professor, Students Contribute to Gene Therapy Cancer Research

February 4, 2019

Researchers from University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry are making an impact on a promising field directed to the treatment of cancer.

Nejat Düzgüneş, PhD, Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, is the editor of a new book, Suicide Gene Therapy: Methods and Protocols. The book is being published by the Humana Press imprint of Springer Nature. The publication features chapters that include work from the Düzgüneş laboratory, along with many other investigators working in this area.

Suicide gene therapy, or gene-directed enzyme-prodrug therapy, is used to target some cancers which have not responded to other treatments. A prodrug is a biologically inactive substance which, when metabolized by enzymes expressed in cancer cells via the delivery of their genes, produces a cytotoxic substance. Suicide gene therapy attempts to make the cancer cells vulnerable to the effects of the metabolized prodrug. While the idea has been around for some decades, it is mainly in the past two decades that treatments have been tested in clinical trials. This 14-chapter book is a survey of the major methods used for suicide gene therapy. More details about the book are available online on the publisher's website.

The Düzgüneş laboratory has been working on suicide gene therapy of oral cancer in vitro and in vivo since 2003. In addition to editing the volume, Düzgüneş also contributes three chapters, one on the origins of suicide gene therapy, and, together with collaborators, two on treating oral squamous cell carcinoma. The last chapter also looks at treating cervical carcinoma.  

"Many of our students have contributed to these studies and have been co-authors on six peer-reviewed publications and 17 presentations at national meetings," commented Düzgüneş regarding his laboratory's work on gene therapy.

Düzgüneş has been a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Sciences since 2010, chair of the Department of Microbiology from 1990 to 2010, and course director for Microbiology from 1990 to 2017, and lectures in several endodontics and orthodontics graduate courses. He has authored or co-authored 178 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 60 book chapters, and has edited or co-edited 15 books and five journal issues. He has been a reviewer of manuscripts submitted to more than 110 journals and has served on the board of 10 journals. He is a recipient of the Fellowship of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the International Association of Student Clinicians-American Dental Association Burton C. Borgelt Faculty Advisor Award, and University of the Pacific's 1999 Eberhardt Teacher-Scholar Award and the 2015 United Methodist University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award.

Many research projects involving students and faculty will be highlighted during the school's annual "Excellence Day" event taking place on May 22, 2019 at the school's campus in San Francisco. The event spotlights advances and activities in research, clinical expertise, and community service.

Learn more about research opportunities and projects on the "Research in the Spotlight" section of the school web site.

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Categories: Administration, Faculty, Featured, Publications, Research, Students, 2019

Contact: Office of Marketing and Communications, 415.929.6434,