UTSA Professor takes down cancer with iron bullets

Professor Donald Kurtz has a theory – shooting “iron bullets” at cancer cells and tumors could kill diseased cells without affecting the remaining tissue.

In June, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded Kurtz $200,000 to test his theory.

Kurtz’s idea is to construct a protein scaffold that houses iron atoms. Surrounding the scaffold are peptides, which allow for the scaffold to bind with the cancer cells and tumors. Light would then be used to shoot the iron into the cancer cells.

“You don’t want iron just bouncing around inside your cells because it will be toxic,” said Kurtz. “Even though iron is useful, it has to be sequestered.”

CPRIT is a Texas institution that was created in 2007 and approved by Texas voters for a 3 billion dollar budget in cancer research. The institute began to accept grant proposals from people who were not in cancer fields to suggest new therapies.

“I had the idea for a few years, but never knew how to go about testing it since I am not in the cancer research field,” said Kurtz.

The research is still in its early stages, but Kurtz has two years of funding. After that time, he hopes to collaborate with a cancer researcher, and eventually move his experiments from test tubes to actually testing it on mice.

“Whether it’s going to work or not, I don’t know, but that’s why we do experiments,” said Kurtz. “That’s what scientists do.”