Groundbreaking Cancer Research, Decades in the Making

Kenneth Adler’s research could lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatments — and it just received a close-up look.

Thursday’s episode of UNC-TV’s “NC Now,” included a segment titled “Aspirin of the Future,” about the development of a drug by Adler, a professor of cell biology at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, that has been shown to stop the spread of lung cancer in mice.

It’s the result of two decades of Adler’s research into a protein, MARCKS, that dictates cell shape and mobility. The drug works by targeting MARCKS. In the summer of 2013, fellow researchers at the CVM watched as very sick mice given the drug acted as though they had never been sick.

Clinical trials for humans will kick off this year for the drug, which has led to positive experiments in treating chronic bronchitis and acute lung injury. Further studies have shown that the drug could halt metastasis, the spread of cancer tumors from one organ to another.

“I’ve never done an experiment using this drug in cancer that has not worked,” says Adler from his office in the CVM Research Building. “I feel very fortunate that the scientific research I did could lead to something so potentially life-saving.”

Adler began his career doing what he calls “basic bench scientific research,” where the common false leads and blind alleys and incorrect hypotheses followed. Adler now finds himself in a position where his findings could give hope to those who feel hopeless after a cancer diagnosis.

During his three-decade tenure at the CVM, Adler has received the MERIT Award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, garnering 10 years of grant support for his work. In 2004, Adler received the O. Max Gardner Award, the highest faculty award given by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. In 2002, Adler co-founded BioMarck Pharmaceuticals to explore the potential of his MARCKS findings.

“We’re talking about basic research being translated into a potential blockbuster treatment for patients,” says Adler. “This is what scientists go into this work for.”

You can watch the full segment at

To learn more about the ongoing clinical trials with Dr. Adler’s lab and how you can get involved, please contact him at 919-606-0017  or at

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine