Sydney West Translational Cancer Research Centre
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Prof Venu Raman: The role of RNA helicase DDX3 in normal and cancer cells: a potential new target for cancer treatment



Abercrombie Business School: Seminar Room 2290

Professor Venu Raman, Professor of Radiology and Oncology, Director of Molecular Therapeutics, Johns Hopkins School of MedicineFounder and CSO Natsar Pharmaceuticals

Biographical summary

Venu Raman earned his PhD from the University of New South Wales for studies performed with CSIRO on chromosome engineering and the transfer of gene regulatory systems across phylogeny. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at The Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Indiana University prior to taking up a research fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Raman joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2000.
Professor Raman’s research focusses on dysregulated genes in cancer, and the translatability of this information to a clinical setting. His work on deciphering the role of HOXA5 and Twist in breast cancer formation is widely recognized. He has done extensive research on deciphering the functional role of a RNA helicase gene, DDX3 in biogenesis of multiple cancer types such as breast, lung, sarcoma, colorectal and prostate
Professor Raman has been granted several patents for his research related to cancer biology and is founder of the company Natsar Pharmaceuticals which is currently taking RK-33, an inhibitor of DDX3, into clinical trials.
Seminar summary
As conventional therapies are not effective against many aggressive cancers, there is an ongoing effort to identify novel or variant drugs to ablate highly malignant transformed cells. One approach is to identify a common molecular pathway that can be targeted with small molecules to treat the disease. Currently, there are few targetable genes that have been linked with the initiation and progression of such cancers. Recently a novel class of genes, referred to as “non-oncogene addiction” (NOA) genes has been described as critical in tumor progression and survival; poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase is the product of one such gene. Professor Raman’s team has identified a RNA helicase, DDX3, as another NOA gene product that is over-expressed in many cancer types, is associated with an aggressive phenotype and which displays promise as a selective druggable target.
A small molecule inhibitor of DDX3, RK-33, was rationally designed and synthesized providing Dr. Raman’s team with a tool to understand the biology of DDX3 and a potential drug for targeted cancer treatment. The biological significance of DDX3 in general and its value as a target for small therapeutic molecules in cancer treatment will be discussed.