Medical Faculty Member Awarded Grant to Research Cancer


MACON – A Mercer University School of Medicine faculty member is on the cutting edge of breast cancer and prostate cancer research. Dr. James L. Thomas, assistant professor of pharmacology in the Division of Basic Medical Sciences, received a $928,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to examine a new target protein for the treatment of breast and prostate cancer – research that could lead to the development of better treatments for the cancers.

This most recent grant from NIH is a continuation of Thomas’s previously-funded research on the design of inhibitors specific to the form of enzyme found in tumors. Since 1985, he has been funded by NIH to study this steroid-metabolizing enzyme and has received more than $3.5 million for this particular research.

“I have been studying the structural difference of the enzyme found in tumors and that found in other tissues,” said Thomas. “As a pharmacologist, I am using that structure to develop a rational drug design that can inhibit tumor growth.”

Thomas developed a strong interest in biomedical research during the summers of his high school and college years. After completing a chemistry major at Emory University, he attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham to obtain a Ph.D. in pharmacology with a minor in biochemistry. His postdoctoral work at Washington University School of Medicine focused on the study of steroid-metabolizing enzymes, where he specialized in the design and characterization of enzyme inhibitors. Thomas left Washington University in St. Louis in 2000 to join the faculty at Mercer University School of Medicine.

For more information about Thomas’s research, please click here to read his article, “Structure/function aspects of human 3b-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase,” published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 215 (2004) 73–82.

About Mercer University and the School of Medicine:

Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Students entering Mercer University School of Medicine will be graduated from a school that utilizes a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice.

Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as three regional academic centers. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 15 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South.