Published on March 9, 2022
University of Louisiana Monroe College of Pharmacy Professor Dr. Khalid El Sayed studies an extract of a fungus that shows potential in treating prostate cancer recurrence. The National Institutes of Health funded El Sayed’s research for more than $347,000 over two years.
Siddarth Gaulee/ULM Photo Services
By Mark Henderson
Special for the University of Louisiana Monroe
Researchers at the University of Louisiana Monroe come up with what they hope will be a new approach to fighting prostate cancer.
They ferment a fungus in a flask and extract a strangely colored liquid. Through a series of steps, they separate the target compound into test tubes and each time the liquid becomes clearer.
The goal: to make possible the purest form of pseurotin A, a natural product in the fungus.
The work is cumbersome and expensive.
A new grant awarded to the ULM College of Pharmacy will help fund research into the potential use of pseudotine A to fight recurrent prostate cancer.
The National Institutes of Health approved a grant application from Dr. Khalid El Sayed, professor of drug and natural product chemistry in the School of Basic Pharmaceutical and Toxicological Sciences in the College of Pharmacy.
The two-year scholarship offers $182,419 for the first year and $164,794 for the second year.
Improving survival rates from recurrent prostate cancer
Among American men, prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of death. About one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and one in 41 men will die.
El Sayed says standard treatment includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
However, prostate cancer is particularly aggressive and often comes back, and researchers have limited preventive options. Patients who develop a cancer recurrence have only a 29 percent chance of survival.
“It’s difficult to design a repeat deterrent because the repetition mechanism is not fully understood,” El Sayed said. “Numerous patients die from the chemical in the chemotherapy used to treat tumors.”
NIH Supports Research Potential
To do the research in ULM labs, El Sayed acquired a stock of fungus that produces pseurotin A.
El Sayed and his research team devised a new cancer recurrence model in which lab mice were treated with pseudotin A. Such was the success that El Sayed applied for the grant money to continue the research.
El Sayed said that of all the grants the NIH has received in this cycle, the agency considers this one of the most important in terms of practical implementation and expected results.
He expects that this research project will only be applied in clinical practice in five years’ time.
“We have intensive research to do before we can reach the application to humans,” he said.
If the research remains promising, follow-up grants through the NIH are possible.
“Every project is very expensive,” said El Sayed. “My job is to raise more money to continue research into high-quality natural products at ULM.”