CRTC Opens New NIH Center

April 14, 2006

Contact: Sam Giammo (505) 272-3682 or (505) 249-2107 cell


The UNM Cancer Research and Treatment Center will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, April 17, at 5:30 p.m. on the HSC Plaza to celebrate the opening of the New Mexico Molecular Libraries Screening Center. The center is one of only nine such centers in the nation funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap Initiative, an $88.9 million program to create nationwide collaborative research networks.

The UNM center is the result of an interdisciplinary, collaborative effort between:


- UNM School of Medicine

- UNM College of Pharmacy

- UNM School of Engineering

- UNM College of Arts & Sciences

- New Mexico Tech

- New Mexico State University

The mission of these centers is to identify small molecules that can be used as research tools for development of new therapies using high-tech, high-throughput screening methods.

These small organic chemical compounds can be used as probes to explore the hundreds of thousands of proteins encoded in the human genome. So far, only a few hundred human proteins have been studied in detail using small molecule probes.

One of these proteins, called GPR 30, was explored at the UNM CRTC using these methods. Research teams led by Larry Sklar, Ph.D., and Eric Prossnitz, Ph.D., discovered for the first time that GPR 30 is a completely new kind of estrogen receptor and that it is expressed in cancer cells. GPR is an acronym for "G Protein Coupled Receptor."

Unlike all other known estrogen receptors, which exist predominantly within cellular nuclei, GPR 30 is found in cell membranes. It represents a previously unknown "pathway" for estrogen to activate cells.

They also discovered a completely new small molecule that selectively binds to GPR 30.

Because estrogen plays such a central role in many women's cancers, the discovery that GPR 30 is an estrogen receptor and the discovery of a small molecule that binds to it are being hailed as major scientific discoveries with significant potential to lead to new therapies.

Their work was published in Science last year and in Nature this month.

As a result of their discovery, the NIH selected Sklar, Prossnitz and their teams to be key participants in this massive nationwide effort to screen and compile a library of small molecules that can be used as research and therapeutic tools in the fight against cancer and a wide variety of other human health problems.

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