By David Robinson
April 20, 2021 | A National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant will allow UAMS researcher Isabelle Racine Miousse, Ph.D., to ramp up her study of a nutrient that may have a role in the effectiveness of immunotherapy for cancer patients.
Miousse will receive $220,000 per year for up to five years as one of four project leaders at the Arkansas Integrative Metabolic Research Center, a new NIH-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The university announced April 6 that the center will receive $10.8 million over five years.
The funding will support Miousse’s preclinical cancer studies involving methionine, an amino acid important for human growth and derived primarily from consuming meat.
Miousse, an assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, will test whether reducing dietary methionine can improve results of immunotherapy drugs used to treat melanoma patients.
“This has never been tried in combination with immunotherapy drugs,” Miousse said, noting that immunotherapy alone works remarkably well, but only for 50% of melanoma patients. “So far the results of this research are very encouraging, and I am hopeful that this next phase of study will take us into clinical trials.”
Unlike most cancer treatments, she notes, this one has beneficial side effects.
“Reducing methionine in the diet promotes the metabolism of fats and sugars in animal models,” Miousse said. “Methionine restriction could fight cancer and improve general health at the same time.”
Miousse’s work has been supported by the UAMS Translational Research Institute’s two-year KL2 Mentored Research Career Development Award for promising early career researchers. The KL2 provides salary support, research seed funding of $50,000 and translational research training. The institute is supported by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.