Alumni Association

University of Colorado Boulder

Flying in the face of cancer

Cancer is the country’s No. 2 killer, following heart disease. Professor Tin Tin Su is working to develop powerful new tools in the fight against the deadly disease.

The next time you see a telltale cloud of fruit flies indicating decaying produce on your kitchen counter, you might want to say a little thank you before hauling the rotten stuff out to the compost.

Why? Because of the humble genus Drosophila, CU-Boulder professor Tin Tin Su of molecular, cellular and developmental biology is primed to develop powerful new tools in the fight against cancer.

The little flies are part of Su’s screening process to identify drugs that will work in combination with radiation to treat cancer. Because radiation doesn’t just kill cancer cells, it can be fatal to surrounding healthy tissue. So doctors must try to target dosages carefully.

But that raises the possibility that some cancerous cells are left behind.

“If there is any left behind, and you give it time to divide and multiply, the tumor will grow back,” says Su, co-founder of the company SuviCa, which completed an exclusive license agreement with CU for a drug screening technology to identify novel therapies for cancer.

Finding chemo drugs that can kill post-radiation cancer cells is critical and fuels Su’s research. Cancer is the country’s second leading killer, following heart disease. This year the American Cancer Society estimates that 1,638,910 people will be newly diagnosed with cancer and 577,190 people will die from it.

Read the rest at the Coloradan online.

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