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Therapeutic targeting of cancer metabolism improves the response to radiation therapy

Research Scholar

Martin Benej, PhD candidate, Slovak Academy of Sciences/Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia)
Nicholas Denko, faculty mentor


  • Hometown: Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Degrees received: Master of Science in molecular biology and PhD in oncology from Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia

What is the issue or problem addresses in your research?

Radiation therapy (RT) is a standard type of cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells. More than 50% of all cancer patients receive RT as a part of their treatment. However, the efficiency of RT is greatly reduced by lack of oxygen or hypoxia inside the tumor. Hypoxia is a typical feature of solid tumors arising because tumor vasculature is not capable of providing enough oxygen for the rapidly growing tumor. Since the presence of oxygen is necessary for mediating.

What methodology did you use in your research?

We use medicinal chemistry approach to design and characterize novel papaverine derivatives. These are subsequently tested against papaverine to investigate the effect on mitochondrial respiration in vitro. The capacity of candidate drugs to affect levels of hypoxia, radiation response and normal tissue toxicity are then evaluated in vivo.

What are the purpose/rationale and implications of your research?

We are investigating the mechanism by which papaverine and its novel derivatives reduce tumor hypoxia and enhance the response to RT. Our studies are expected to provide information necessary for translating this promising novel therapeutic approach into the clinics by repurposing papaverine or establishing its derivative as a clinical radiosensitizer.