Fox Chase Researcher Earns Renewed Grant from the National PKU Alliance

PHILADELPHIA (March 21, 2018) — Eileen K. Jaffe, PhD, professor of molecular therapeutics at Fox Chase Cancer Center, has earned a renewal of her research grant from the National PKU Alliance. Jaffe’s lab collaboratively applies molecular biology, biochemistry, and various biophysical techniques to seek ways to repair certain dysfunctional enzymes.  

Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a rare inherited metabolic disorder that is characterized by the inability of the body to utilize the essential amino acid, phenylalanine (Phe). It is most often caused by a deficiency of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH). Excess Phe is toxic to the central nervous system and can cause severe health problems such as seizures, developmental delays, behavioral problems, psychiatric disorders, and permanent intellectual disability.

In 2016 Jaffe achieved a major breakthrough by solving the structure of PAH, which brought the field closer to being able to develop new drug therapies to treat PKU. Presently, it is treated primarily through a life-long restrictive diet.

Jaffe’s work has implications for drug discovery across a range of diseases. “Identifying and solving structure-function relationships of proteins opens up new therapeutic targets for PKU and cancer alike, because both are the result of proteins not functioning as expected,” she said.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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