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Probing DNA for Cancer Therapies

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) contains all of the genetic information for a living organization and is involved in many fundamental biological processes. Information in DNA is stored in chemical bases that pair up. The order of these base pairs contain essential information for an organism. Physical properties of DNA, such as elasticity, strength, and elongation, also play an important role in cell interactions. The smallest error, such as a molecule inserted between two neighboring base pairs — called an intercalator — can change the structure of DNA and lead to genetic abnormalities that cause cell death. "The main difference between the different types of chemotherapy drugs is related to the targets," said Arman Fathizadeh, physics researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). "For example, intercalating drugs target cells. But other drugs target enzymes which act on DNA." Fathizadeh is among a group of researchers with Fatemeh Khalili-Araghi at UIC investigating intercalators and their effect on DNA in collaboration with Boise State University's Physics Department and Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering. The groups are looking into the effects of the drug doxorubicin used in cancer chemotherapy. Doxorubicin primarily treats leukemia and cancer of the bladder, breast, and stomach. Learn more at

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