The Division of Gastrointestinal Surgery’s James Bibb, Ph.D., and the Division of Surgical Oncology’s Sushanth Reddy, M.D., were recently awarded a grant from the SDHB Pheo-Para Coalition to study pheochromocytomas and paraganglioomas, two kinds of rare neuroendocrine tumors.

Clockwise from top left: Dr. James Bibb, Dr. Sushanth Reddy and Dr. Priyanka Gupta are researching two rare kinds of neuroendocrine tumors using precision medicine.Clockwise from top left: Dr. James Bibb, Dr. Sushanth Reddy and Dr. Priyanka Gupta are researching two rare kinds of neuroendocrine tumors using precision medicine.

This $100,000 grant will allow Bibb, vice chair of basic science research, and Reddy, assistant professor of surgery, to research the causes of these problematic cancers, to develop new animal models of the disease, to test new targeted therapies with the goal of moving effective treatments to the clinical trials and, ultimately, to treat and cure patients who suffer from these often recurring and debilitating tumors.

“This funding will meaningfully accelerate this first stage of the research while the team pursues long-term NIH funding,” Reddy said.

Bibb and Reddy have already discovered new biochemical mechanisms that appear to be dysregulated as a result of the succinate dehydrogenase subunit B gene mutation, which drives the formation of these tumors. The SDHB gene is normally part of the energy-supplying process that cells use to live and grow.

“We are very excited about the progress that Drs. Bibb and Reddy have been making,” said Tim Rothwell, president of the SDHB Pheo-Para Coalition. “We hope that, in supporting this important research, we will be aiding them to make strides toward addressing this understudied and underfunded orphan disease.”

Working with human tumor samples, cells derived from human tumors and a novel set of experimental drugs, Bibb and Reddy’s team now have at least one candidate therapy and are developing a new set of diagnostic tools to detect biomarkers of the cancer and their potential vulnerability to chemotherapy.

Pictured: Scanning electron micrograph of rare human pheochromocytoma tumor cells.Pictured: Scanning electron micrograph of rare human pheochromocytoma tumor cells.

The Division of Transplantation’s Jared White, M.D., and the Division of Surgical Oncology’s Carlo Contreras, M.D., are also helping to obtain key human samples needed to identify the cancer-causing processes.

“I am just elated to be working with such an outstanding team,” Bibb said.

This medical care-research effort is also consistent with the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us initiative aimed at advancing research into precision medicine, which UAB recently joined.

Department of Surgery basic science researchers involved in this effort include Dr. Priyanka Gupta, Angela Carter, Keene Strange, Rahul Telange, Wayne Howse and Daniel Epstein. Other collaborators include Dr. Laurant Meijer, ManRos Therapies; Dr. Karel Pacak, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and Dr. Hans Ghayee, University of Florida Medical Center.