Professor receives help in doing cancer research

After participating in the development and discovery of two major cancer-fighting drugs, professor James Hoeschele is working with Eastern Michigan University students to further research in the field.

Hoeschele joined EMU’s chemistry department as an adjunct professor after retiring from his teaching position at Michigan State University in 2009.

“I was essentially hired at MSU to teach,” Hoeschele said. “After retirement, I decided that I wanted to work primarily with students—to break them in, show them research techniques and give them lab experience.”

So far, Hoeschele has worked mainly with undergraduate students in his laboratory, although his project currently includes one M.S. student and he looks forward to working with two students from Italy later this year. His students said they want to go into a variety of disciplines, including the fields of biology, biochemistry, medicine and pharmacology.

“The research becomes an interdisciplinary experience for the students. It teaches them lab skills and leads them to careers in many different fields,” Hoeschele said, adding that he thinks the one thing that his students have in common is that “they are interested in doing research that will benefit mankind.”

The research that Hoeschele directs at EMU is a continuation of his work with platinum compounds, which began with his research on cisplatin and carboplatin at MSU. Cisplatin was the first metal-based compound that was found to be effective in treating a broad spectrum of tumors, especially solid tumors.

The discovery of cisplatin by professor Barnett Rosenberg and his research group at MSU has inspired many of Hoeschele’s students.

The compound was discovered by accident during an unrelated laboratory investigation at MSU. After the biological activity of the compound was discovered, Hoeschele joined the team, focusing on the synthesis and purification of cisplatin, the distribution of radiolabeled cisplatin in vivo and the synthesis of many analogs of cisplatin.

“The discovery of cisplatin is a perfect example of the application of the scientific method in finding the cause of an accidental discovery,” Hoeschele said, adding that he is using this approach in mentoring his students.

Carboplatin was developed nearly a decade later as a very similar but much less toxic drug, and has essentially replaced cisplatin in chemotherapeutic treatments.

Hoeschele’s goal at EMU is to continue his own research and give undergraduates the opportunity to participate in this same kind of research.

“We are always trying to design and synthesize new agents that have equivalent activity but reduced toxicity,” Hoeschele said.

Hoeschele’s education-focused approach to research is representative of a great culture in the College of Arts and Sciences at EMU. He said many universities do not have the same opportunities available to undergraduate students.

Hoeschele met many of his EMU students at Chemistry Help Sessions, a tutoring program offered by the Chemistry department.

Hoeschele said he is excited to continue his research at EMU with what he called his supportive department and enthusiastic students.

“This is an important line of work,” Hoeschele said. “Where students can really see that there is continuing research in the field.”

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