Christopher Klug, Ph.D., and Andres Forero, M.D. – Co-Leaders
The Experimental Therapeutics Program has had long track record of performing cutting-edge translational research. Recent enhancements to the program have incorporated an increased interest in new drug development as well as investigations that take agents from the preclinical setting to all phases of clinical trials.
In prior years we have focused on preclinical work with the aim toward clinical trials. Our thematic interests have involved the development of new pre-clinical models in order to improve the probability that preclinical findings will correlate with actual clinical outcomes. We have led investigations of new monoclonal antibodies or small molecule targeted therapies in multiple disease sites. This area of interest has long been a forte of the Experimental Therapeutics Program. Albert LoBuglio, M.D., Director Emeritus of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, is to be credited with spearheading much of our targeted antibody program. We are poised to make significant contributions in all aspects of advancing the science and implementation of new cancer therapeutics.
Significant Scientific Accomplishments:
- One significant example of this process is the development of the retinoid, UAB 30, developed and patented at UAB. This agent has been shown to be a strong chemoprevention agent using a carcinogen-induced breast cancer model. Further toxicology work at Southern Research Institute was performed with RAPID funding. Subsequently, a phase I trial was initiated in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin.
- Another example of this research process is the development of the monoclonal antibody, TRA-8, which is an agonistic antibody that targets death receptor five (DR5). This agonistic effect leads to apoptosis in many tumor lines. The antibody was developed at UAB by Tong Zhou, Ph.D. Pre-clinical work has led to clinical trials in pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer and a planned trial in breast cancer. The pancreatic cancer trial was recently completed and combined the antibody with gemcitabine chemotherapy. This trial is currently being evaluated for toxicity and response.
- Finally, work with the radiolabeled scorpion toxin demonstrates another important example of developing a new agent at UAB that has led to clinical trials and the potential for changing the standard of care of a specific malignancy. The scorpion toxin is an agent that preferentially targets tumor cells and was developed in the laboratory of Harald Sontheimer, Ph.D. With funding through the Brain Tumor SPORE and strong collaborations with industry, this research has progressed through all phases of clinical trials for patients with malignant glioma. This agent has entered phase III evaluation at multiple sites throughout the U.S.
Christopher A. Klug, Ph.D.—Dr. Klug received a B.S. in Biology from Wheaton College in 1987 and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Chicago in 1993. He did postdoctoral research in stem cell biology and immunology at Stanford University as an Irvington Institute Fellow before coming to UAB as an Assistant Professor in 1997. He is currently Professor of Microbiology, Pathology, and Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at UAB. Dr. Klug is a Senior Scientist in the Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he is also the Co-Director of the Experimental Therapeutics Program. His research interests have focused on stem cell biology, involvement of stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia, the genetic control of early lymphocyte development, and animal modeling of pancreatic cancer. The work in pancreatic cancer has involved the characterization of serum biomarkers to identify early-stage pancreatic neoplasia and novel immunologic approaches to target more advanced pancreatic cancer. His research is funded by grants from the NIH, NIDDK, NIAID and the NCI.
Andres Forero, M.D.—Dr. Forero received his M.D. from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana School of Medicine in Bogota, Colombia, where he also completed his residency. He completed research and clinical fellowships at UAB. In 1991, he moved back to Colombia, serving as a founding member and co-director of the Colombian Bone Marrow Transplant Program at the National Cancer Institute and director of the Division of Hematology-Oncology at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. He returned to UAB in 2000. His research interests include targeted immunotherapy, breast cancer and lymphoma.