Topic Abstract: Cancer Drug Discovery & Molecular Targeting

Brian Law, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Faculty and Trainee Development
Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics


Cancer remains a major killer of Americans, making the development of new drugs for treating cancer urgent. Tumors arise when cells in our bodies acquire genetic alterations that allow them to divide uncontrollably and to avoid the cell death mechanisms that normally remove defective cells. As cancers progress, they typically gain the ability to spread throughout the body and become resistant to currently available drugs. Since malignancies arise from our own cells that have “gone rogue”, finding medicines that stop cancer cells without affecting our own normal cells is challenging. One approach is to identify the genetic changes, or mutations, in cancer cells responsible for their aberrant behavior and to develop drugs called “targeted therapeutics” that reverse the effects of these cancer-specific genetic alterations. These new anticancer drugs can come from a variety of sources including natural products (plants, bacteria, etc.), chemicals synthesized in a laboratory, or using drugs originally designed for other purposes. Over the coming decades, new capabilities to screen individual patient tumors for their genetic alterations and vulnerabilities, combined with an ever-increasing armamentarium of drugs to target these cancer-specific susceptibilities are expected to contribute to significant improvements in our ability to render cancer a manageable disease.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Brian Law is a cancer biologist in the UF Health Cancer Center. His laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms responsible for conversion of normal cells to cancer cells. His laboratory employs the information obtained from these mechanistic studies to identify new classes of anticancer agents. The ultimate goal of this work is to produce safer and more effective medicines for improving the survival and quality of life of patients suffering from cancer.

Florida’s State Academic Standards for Science


Explain how mutations in the DNA sequence may or may not result in phenotypic change. Explain how mutations in gametes may result in phenotypic changes in offspring.


Explain the relationship between mutation, cell cycle, and uncontrolled cell growth potentially resulting in cancer.


Describe how viruses and bacteria transfer genetic material between cells and the role of this process in biotechnology.


Evaluate the impact of biotechnology on the individual, society and the environment, including medical and ethical issues.

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