Pharmacy Professor Kinghorn Receives $7.1 Million Continuation of Program Project Grant Funding from the National Cancer Institute

Professor Kinghorn

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health has awarded A. Douglas Kinghorn, professor and Jack L. Beal chair in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, an additional $7.1 million for years 6–10 of “Discovery of Anticancer Agents of Diverse Natural Origin,” a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional project directed toward the discovery of new, naturally occurring antitumor agents, specifically those from selected tropical plants, aquatic cyanobacteria and filamentous fungi. When coupled with NCI funds from years 1–5 of the project, the grant totals more than $14 million, making it one of the largest single grants in the college’s history.

More than 40 percent of new small-molecule anticancer agents approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the past 30 years have had their origin from compounds biosynthesized by organisms such as terrestrial microbes and higher plants. This project aims to identify and synthetically modify new, naturally occurring lead compounds to advance them toward clinical use as potential cancer chemotherapeutic therapies. A number of promising substances obtained earlier in the project will also be developed further through additional biological evaluations.

The research will include contributions from investigators from both the colleges of pharmacy and medicine at Ohio State, as well as collaborators from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and Columbia University, and from Mycosynthetix, Inc. and Eisai, Inc. The project will pool resources from these academic institutions and companies while utilizing drug discovery resources at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and NCI.

Continuation of funding for this project resulted from rigorous peer and institutional scientific review. “We are extremely appreciative that the NCI has recognized the continuing importance of natural products as antitumor drug lead compounds and has therefore chosen to fund this project again,” said Kinghorn. “The overall impact of a large project like this can be much greater than those of any of the individual component projects or cores.”

In addition to being the overall principal investigator of this project, Kinghorn will continue to serve as project leader of Project 1 and core leader of Core C. Other Ohio State pharmacy faculty members involved include associate professors Esperanza Carcache de Blanco (co-project leader, Project 1), James Fuchs (core leader, Core B) and assistant professor Mitchell Phelps (co-core leader, Core B). Professors Ching-Shih Chen, Jack Yalowich, and professor emeritus and dean emeritus Robert Brueggemeier were named as members of the internal advisory committee for the program project team in the proposal submitted to NCI.

“Considerable momentum and many productive interactions between the senior investigators were established in the first five years of funding of this project, and a smooth work plan was developed,” said Kinghorn. “In this second iteration of the project, we have several new experimental approaches proposed and are very pleased to be able to continue our work together as an investigative team. We hope that the future efforts of our group will lead to the elucidation of one or more additional lead compounds of promise as potential cancer chemotherapeutic agents for the eventual benefit of cancer patients.”