Santhi Konduri, PhD, has had a fascination for research since she was a young girl growing up in India. That’s where she got her doctorate in human genetics, and then came to the United States in 1998 and began studying brain tumors. Her passion for research has taken her all over the country studying brain, pancreatic and breast cancer cells. But along the way she developed a personal connection to her work that continues to motivate her today: Dr. Konduri lost her aunt to breast cancer. “It has happened in my family, and I’m trying to see if this research can help. Will it make a difference for people like her?” she says.
Dr. Konduri received an Aurora Cancer Care Research Award in 2014 for her preclinical evaluation of the drug disulfiram as part of combination therapy in breast and pancreatic cancers.
“Disulfiram is actually an FDA-approved drug for alcoholism, it creates an aversion for alcohol and reverses the inclination to drink. Recently, it has also shown anti-cancer properties, and when it is combined with chemotherapeutic drugs, we can reduce the dosage of such drugs,” Dr. Konduri explains. She says this is critical, as reducing the dose will decrease both unpleasant side effects and cellular/organ damage caused by chemotherapy’s toxicity.
There are currently only two drugs with FDA approval to treat pancreatic cancer and the survival rates are quite low. “It’s a very severe disease, partly because people don’t often notice the symptoms until around the 6-month stage. We really need new drug combinations to prolong the lives of these patients,” she says.
Dr. Konduri’s work is part of a greater Aurora Health Care effort to focus more on research. “Research has become a priority at Aurora, especially with Aurora Research Institute being the recipient of several large, nationally competitive research grants,” says Randall Lambrecht, PhD, President of Aurora Research Institute.
Aurora’s commitment to research is primarily focused on the areas of cardiovascular medicine, neurosciences and cancer. That research would not be possible without donors to Aurora Health Care Foundation. Dr. Lambrecht believes powerful advancements are right around the corner and notes, “We know that many of tomorrow’s breakthroughs in cancer prevention and treatment are waiting to be discovered right here in our research facilities at Aurora.”
Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation and other donor gifts supported two of Dr. Konduri’s projects last year. Those studies are going well and she is seeing promising results. “That’s why I am working to get my studies published, so we can show what we’re doing. That can lead to more collaborations and hopefully more funding in the future,” she explains.
One way you can support research just like this is to take part in a Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer near you. In 2014, Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation donated $600,000 to Aurora Cancer Care programs, including research, as a result of cancer walks in three different communities.
To learn more, or start your team, go to lombardiwalk.org.