Funding society highlights UTPA professor’s research
Bimal Banik, President Endowed Professor for UTPA’s Department of Chemistry, has been hard at work serving as the principal investigator of his own research study, which considers the effects of beta-lactam compounds on different types of cancer. With a long established history in such work dating back to 1990, Banik and his crew are aiming to capitalize on how the beta-lactam’s use as anti-bacterial agents/compounds can be manipulated into developing better anti-cancer drugs.
Banik’s research, which is aided by many collaborators and about 30 UTPA students, has created such a buzz that the professor and his accomplishments are soon to be featured on the webpage of the National Cancer Institute/National Institute of Health’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities.
“This is very exciting because generally, NCI/NIH, they do not select everybody because thousands of people are working on cancer (research),” Banik said. “How many people or authors can get on the website? Very few. Very few…So the National U.S. Government, the most prestigious funding society in the world, NIH NCI, they are selecting our work as website material. That’s very prestigious and I am naturally very excited about it.”
Banik’s has written an article on this research, “Asymmetric synthesis of anticancer beta-lactams via Staudinger reaction: utilization of chiral ketene from carbohydrate,” that has been recognized with equal acclaim by scientists all over the world. As reported by the Bio Med Library, Banik’s online piece currently ranks number one in the world for most-cited articles. Four of Banik’s papers from UTPA became top-cite winners in 2007 and 2008. His work was also acknowledged by a prestigious research organization in England that selected his cancer research to publish in its “International Innovation” issue.
According to Banik, despite significant research on beta-lactam as antibiotics since 1945, studies to identify anti-cancer uses of it are limited. While, there have been 76,000 publications on antibacterial beta-lactams, there are only 10 on anti-cancer beta lactams; Banik is responsible for being the main author of six of those.
After the study of polycyclic compounds (molecules that contain two or more rings that are joined together), years of Banik’s laboratory research have produced a few methods in beta-lactam chemistry and other open chain compounds. Using cisplatin and adriamycin as controls against nine human cancer cell lines, beta-lactams and other related amines were found to have positive effects on ovarian, breast, prostate, leukemia, melanoma, liver, bladder and colon cancer, in terms of the inhibition of cancer cell growth. Selective differences of anti-cancer activities have been observed by some of these unique compounds. By conducting a study, where human tumors were implanted in laboratory mice, some compounds were able to reduce the amount of colon tumors found in the mice by 35 percent, as well as, the mice’s overall tumor volume by 47 percent. Banik’s research is yet to be completed and he is still working on identifying new molecules that will produce a more potent, much less toxic oral cancer drug.
Banik has already accepted $4.25 million in research grants from organizations like the NCI/NIH, Health Science Center San Antonio and other private foundations. He has also received a $1 million instrumentation grant from UT MD Anderson Cancer Center and about $800,000 from UTPA’s Instrumentation Committee, to fund his studies. He has many grants pending.
While Banik’s work is far from over, he remains hopeful that despite the economic problems the United States is facing in providing funding for research, his studies will continue as long as he remains consistent in applying to different funding sources.