• Punit Kaur, Ph.D.

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  • Punit Kaur, Ph.D.
      Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry & Immunology (MBI)
    Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Anatomy

    Contact Information

    Phone: (404) 756-5795
    Fax: (404) 752-1179

    1999 - B.Sc., Botany, Zoology and Chemistry from Punjab University, Chandigarh, India
    2001 - M.Sc., Microbiology from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab, India
    2008 - Ph.D., Experimental Medicine and Biotechnology from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India

    Research Interests
    Our long term goal is the research and development of heat shock protein-based therapies to be used alone or in combination with current therapies for the eradication of triple-negative breast cancer. Recent studies on surface receptors and gene expression of breast tumors have come up with a term triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), creating a phenotype and disease quite distinct from that seen in HER2- or ER-positive breast cancers, which is a much more aggressive disease without tumor-specific treatment options. Our studies employ gold nanoshell-mediated hyperthermia in combination with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, also known as the triple-modality approach. These studies received RGP Award from Scott & White Memorial Hospital.

    We will expose tumors to hyperthermic temperatures non-invasively using optically activated gold nanoshells in combination with radiotherapy (RT) and chemotherapy (CT). This combined therapy is termed the triple-modality approach. These studies are being performed in collaboration with Dr. Sunil Krishnan (MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX). My studies utilize functional immunological approaches, genomics, proteomics, transgenic and knock out tumor animal models.

    Current chemotherapeutic agents exhibit antitumor effects in a small number of cancers and adverse toxic effects in most of the patients. To overcome these problems, new antitumor agents are required. In this collaboration with Dr Susana Fiorentino from Grupo de Inmunobiología y Biología Celular, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia, we have identified a plant extract F4, derived from Petiveria alliacea L. (Phytolaccaceae), which has been used against leukemia and breast cancer with a lack of toxicity. 

    Adaptogens were initially defined as substances that enhance the “state of non-specific resistance” in stress, a physiological condition that is linked with various disorders of the neuroendocrine-immune system. The objective of our research with Drs Alexander Panossian and Georg Wikman from Swedish Herbal Institute, Sweden is to identify the mechanism by which Hsp72 is involved in an adaptogen-induced stress response.

    In the last decade alone, there has been an increase of 40% in the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes. Over that same period, the obesity rate has also increased by nearly 20%. Therefore, efforts to identify any biomarker(s) to assist with obesity and diabetes prevention are of paramount importance. This study was designed to address the link between obesity and diabetes using proteomic analysis of drawn blood and collected urine samples. These studies are being performed in collaboration with Dr Samuel Forjuoh from Department of Family & Community Medicine, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Scott & White Memorial Hospital, Temple, TX. 

    Quercetin is a widely distributed bioflavonoid thought to act as a hyperthermia sensitizer in tumor cells by suppressing the expression of the seventy kilo-Dalton heat shock protein (Hsp72). However, the bioavailability of quercetin is very poor, and intravenous administration is necessary to establish efficient plasma concentrations of quercetin (PQC) in humans. In collaboration with Dr. Rűediger Wessalowski from the Department of Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Clinical Immunology, University Children’s Hospital, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany, successful intravenous application of quercetin in a 4-year-old girl with refractory sarcoma treated with combined thermo-chemotherapy.

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