Research to identify glycoprotein wins award

07 August 2008 | Story by Helen Théron

Prof Anwar Mall and Nthato Chirwa
Teamwork: Prof Anwar Mall (left) and Nthato Chirwa, winner of the Roc Kaschula Award for best presentation by a young researcher.

Work to identify a glycoprotein fragment found in the crude mucus secretions of gastric cancer patients has won PhD student Nthato Chirwa the Roc Kaschula Award.

The award honours the best presentation by a young researcher and was made at the recent 48th Annual Congress of the South African Societies of Pathology.

Chirwa's supervisor, Professor Anwar Mall (Division of General Surgery Research Laboratory), started this project in the 1990s with Emeritus Professor David Dent.

Using mucus samples provided by Associate Professor Eugenio Panieri at Groote Schuur Hospital, Chirwa purified and isolated the glycoprotein in the laboratory.

He successfully raised a polyclonal antibody to it with Professor Dirk Bellstedt of the University of Stellenbosch, and then located its pattern of expression in normal and diseased gastric cancer tissue, with UCT's Professor Dhiren Govender.

Chirwa identified this fragment as orosomucoid, an acute-phase protein, with Dr Bongani Dimba of the University of the Western Cape.

Mall hopes a grant will support further work to investigate the role of orosomucoid in the pathogenesis of gastric cancer, a disease prevalent in the Western Cape.

"It could be a long shot, but we want to know if it does play a part," he said.

Chirwa submits his PhD thesis in a fortnight. Thereafter he hopes to study medicine and eventually specialise in pathology.

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