Dr. Antonacci's research focuses on DNA and the treatment of cancer.
My research focuses on the discovery and translation of therapeutic modalities in the treatment of cancer. In general, the experiments utilized fall into three general categories as described below:
A large amount of the human genome is involved in the more typical B-DNA structures (Watson-Crick base pairing double helix). However, there is evidence that small segment have non-canonical structures. These structures result from sequence or environmental perturbations and they may be involved in the synthesis of harmful oncogene products. Thus, targeting non-canonical structures may offer a therapeutic benefit. This can increase the specificity of drugs and reduce cytotoxic effects.
Since there may be a therapeutic benefit in utilizing non-canonical structure binders to treat cancer cells. It would be useful to establish a high throughput screening method to assess binding potential. This binding potential may be further validated with cancer cell based luciferase and survival assays to confirm sequence specific down-regulation. These studies are being performed in collaboration with colleagues at The Cancer Institute of NJ (Dr Zhiyuan Shen). In addition, development of a compound to mimic p53 function is currently under development.
Currently, I am working in collaboration with another chemistry faculty member, James Hanson, Ph.D. Seton Hall University, to develop polymeric transfection tools to allow entry of DNA into cells. We are interested in developing polymers for specific delivery of cancer drugs. A common problem for cancer drugs is their toxicity. We can overcome toxicity by delivering drug to the cells that should receive treatment. By utilizing targeting molecules on the outer surfaces of polymeric based polymers, we can deliver nanoparticles to cancer sites. Once at the site, the tumor microenvironment has distinct features when compared to normal cell environments. Therefore, we can utilize polymers that will capitalize on these differences to effectively deliver a drug.