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LOWELL - Thomas Shea, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, is conducting experiments on a new treatment for neuroblastoma, the most common form of solid tumor cancer in newborn infants.
Shea's research, which typically dealt with Alzheimer's and the use of antioxidants in slowing the effects of neurological degeneration in aging, led him to consider the use of antioxidants to delay or halt the growth of tumors that neuroblastoma causes.
"I realized that even in our Alzheimer's studies, we have used tumors of brain cells that grow continuously and that's similar to cancer. A new idea: The antioxidants stopped neuron growth in our studies. Would it work for neuroblastoma?" says Shea.
In the immune-deficient mice they used for testing, the large tumors showed no effects and the small tumor growth was delayed. "In a test tube, the cancer stopped one-hundred percent."
Shea's research also drew the interest of the National Institute of Health which awarded him and his co-investigators, Chemistry Prof. Emeritus Arthur Watterson and Health and Clinical Sciences Prof. Robert Nicolosi, a $170,000 grant to continue their exploratory research.
Meanwhile, Shea has been invited to speak to the neuroblastoma group at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
"I was amazed, because the results are so preliminary and they are the clinical experts," says Shea. "But they said that's what they need - to hear new ideas from researchers like me."
The University of Massachusetts Lowell, a comprehensive university with special expertise in applied science and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental, and social health of the region. UML offers its 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students more than 80 degree programs in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, and the School of Health and Environment and the Graduate School of Education.