HealthWatch: Annette Khaled, Cancer Assassin


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Now, one scientist at the University of Central Florida is earning accolades for her research that is stopping cancer cells in their tracks. 

Graciela Abrams is a mom, a wife and has a full-time career. She never thought this would be possible 20 years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 22.

Abrams commented, “Just graduated college, I’m looking forward to a future, and for someone to tell you ‘hey you have cancer,’ it’s like, stops your world in a second.”

When Abrams went into remission a year later, she became a champion for others. Her cancer was found early and was treatable, but for people whose cancer has metastasized … 

“The survival rates are really low. And even most of the therapies they improve survival for just a few months.” Annette Khaled, PhD, at University of Central Florida explained.

Currently, the five-year survival rate for women with metastatic breast cancer is 26 percent. Annette Khaled is looking to change that.

Khaled continued, “What we’re trying to develop is a therapy that we can hit the cancer cell at a very critical point in their biology and the things that they need to survive.”

Khaled is using nanotechnology to deliver a compound to cancer cells and kill them before they spread their damage.

“I’m really hoping that what we have in our hands is something that will not only improve survival for more than just a few months into years, may actually even lead to a cure,” said Khaled.

Her efforts in cancer research have earned her the nickname ‘The Cancer Assassin,’ a title she doesn’t mind at all.

Khaled explained, “I think it is great because I think it gives hope.” 

Khaled’s new technology has generated a licensing agreement from SEVA Therapeutics Inc., a Massachusetts-based pre-clinical biotechnology company, which will accelerate the therapy’s path to clinical trials.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Jesse Draus, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:    MB #4364

BACKGROUND: Cancer cells differ from normal cells in ways that allow them to grow out of control and become invasive. They are less specialized than normal cells, and rather than mature into cells with specific functions, they continue to divide without stopping. Cancer cells are also able to ignore signals that normally tell cells to stop dividing, a process known as programmed cell death. Cancer cells may also induce nearby normal cells to form blood vessels that supply the tumors with oxygen/nutrients needed to grow, and remove waste products from the tumors. Cancer cells are often able to evade or ÒhideÓ from the immune system, which normally can remove damaged or abnormal cells from the body. Tumors may also use the immune system to stay alive and grow, as well as keep it from killing the cancer cells.

THE CANCER ASSASSIN: Several years ago researchers at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida first discovered what their peptide research was doing but were unsure of their target.  At the same time, the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation liked the premise of the work these researchers were doing and decided to give them some funding. It was at that point the university coined the nickname ÒCancer AssassinÓ for Professor Annette Khaled.
(Source: Annette Khaled, PhD)

NEW RESEARCH: Using nanotechnology, research is now in the preclinical trial phase, using a small 20 amino acid peptide as a cancer therapy. This therapy in development is a targeted therapy that can hit the cancer cell at a very critical point in its biology, and work to kill the cancer cells and prevent them from spreading throughout the body and affecting other organs. Introducing the peptide as is into the body would result in it being destroyed, so researchers are working to protect it while traveling through the blood to get to the tumor using a vehicle referred to as the Dane particle. This nanoparticle is based on a polyester polymer type form that encapsulates the peptide within and keeps it protected from the environment in the blood or tissue. The nanoparticle will actually reach the tumors and be taken up by the tumor cells and then release the peptide inside the tumor.
(Source: Annette Khaled, PhD)


Christin Senior

Annette Khaled 

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you knowÊto seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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