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Stomach cancer research travels from space back to Toledo

The study is being led by a University of Toledo professor who got support from NASA.

Toledo, Ohio (WNWO) Stomach cancer is one of the biggest killers when it comes to cancer.

Now progress is being made thanks to some out-of-this world research.

The study is being led by a University of Toledo professor who got support from NASA.

Dr. Donald Ronning is a professor in the University of Toledo's chemistry and biochemistry department. His team sent protein samples to the International Space Station.

"We're looking at a protein that is necessary for the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers and cancers to survive," explained Ronning.

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station, were able to grow them to about the size of a grain of rice.

Ronning's team back on earth is able to better analyze the structure and its life cycle to come up with a way to combat it.

"If we can create a molecule that will inhibit the activity of that particular protein in the bacterium, then we can use that as a basis for developing new drugs to treat these diseases," said Ronning.

Michael Banco is a UT graduate student. This project is part of his thesis.

"We have had a lot of great success," said Banco. "Having done some of things I've done so far, the collaborations, talking with staff scientists... it's been great."

Dr. Ronning says this research could help a lot of people infected with this bacteria.

"Since about fifty percent of the world population is estimated to be infected with the H. Pylori bacteria, there's a large population of people who could be harmed by this and could benefit from news drugs for treating this," said Ronning

Right now, most of the people with this specific bacterial infection are treated with general antibiotics, but in some regions of the world, 30-percent of the strains are resistant to those drugs.

Dr. Ronning says their collaborators have already gone through stage one and two of clinical trials and it's been deemed safe. They just need funding now.

If they get support from a large pharmaceutical company, these molecules could be used in the clinic, Ronning says, within the next four years or so.

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