UVM Research Working to develope a cure for cancer begins with research, such as that being done by the University of Vermont

Senior Sean Haggerty is working with emeritus professor Dr. A. Paul Krapcho to synthesize an organic molecule that may possess great cancer-fighting potential. Haggerty’s thesis project is to develop cancer fighting drugs and has been approved by the College Honors Committee. Haggerty described his research as working with DNA replication. Telomeres are the tips of DNA that protect it from problems arising during replication. With each round of DNA replication, our telomeres are shortened slightly, eventually leading to a loss of functional genes.Haggerty explains that “this interplay between the loss and preservation of telomere length has been likened to a biological clock. “If telomerase maintains stable telomere lengths, a cell can survive infinite rounds of cell division; essentially, this is cancer.” Due to their chemical nature, unpaired telomeric strands often form tangled complexes that inhibit the binding of telomerase. Haggerty’s thesis project aims to synthesize a molecule that will stabilize the tangled complexes of telomeric DNA, to preventing the binding of telomerase. “Any molecule that prevents or limits the activity of telomerase is a potential anticancer agent,” Haggerty said. Haggerty’s project seeks to synthesize molecules that may stabilize the structure of telomeric DNA and also to evaluate the efficacy of telomerase-inhibition for synthesized molecules.