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New cancer-killing drug tested by researchers in Milwaukee could head to clinical trials

A new cancer-killing drug tested by researchers in Milwaukee could be headed to clinical trials. The drug targets brain, pancreatic, and breast cancers. It has appeared effective on tissue samples donated by local patients.

Senior Research Scientist Santhi Konduri says the testing of a drug originally meant to treat alcoholism is proving effective in a different way. 

"It's killing the brain, breast, and pancreatic cancer very effectively. So these combinations are game-changers," said Konduri. "Not many drugs reach to the brain. So, fortunately, this drug - the drug which we are working on in combination with copper and standard therapy is very effectively killing brain cancer cells."

But to complete the pre-clinical studies funded by the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation, they needed samples to test. 

That's where Aurora Healthcare's Biorepository comes into play. Think of it as a library for specimens.

"She is taking some blood samples that have been collected for research studies."

Natalie Polinske is essentially the sample librarian.

"Some examples are blood, tissue, urine, sputum, things like that. Oftentimes researchers need access to a large number of specimens and it would be quite cumbersome for them to go through all the requirements needed to collect them. So that's where my team steps in," said Polinske. 

They have more than 70,000 blood samples stored. Researchers can even get tissue samples from the OR within 45 minutes of a surgery. The specimens are deidentified but the medical records follow and administrators say that's the important part. 

"Really many of our future discoveries are locked into medical records or locked into the tissues that we collect in the biorepository. In my book, the patients are really our heroes here because they're helping us make those discoveries and they're leading us to the next generation of advanced medicine."

In the case a drug that might reduce the need for chemotherapy.

"It takes some time because we need to repeat the experiments. And once we know these combinations are working well on these saline models then we can go for clinical trials."

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