High Performance Liquid Chromatography System

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Description (Brief)
In 1989 Napoleone Ferrara used this Gilson high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) apparatus to purify vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) for the first time. HPLC is a chemistry technique used to separate the different components of a mixture. The system uses high pressure and a solvent to direct a mixture through a column containing an absorbent solid. Molecules leave the column at different speeds depending on their interaction with the solvent and the solid due to their variation in weight, electrical charge, or other properties. The process can be used to obtain pure samples of proteins, such as VEGF, for research purposes.
Ferrara’s subsequent research on VEGF uncovered its role as a signaling protein. The body uses VEGF to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. This discovery opened the door for a new class of cancer drugs.
Since the early 20th century, scientists have understood the significance of blood networks in tumor growth. Cancer cells induce the body to build vascular networks so that tumors can grow, sustain themselves, and spread through the body. Without the supply of oxygen and nutrients provided by blood, tumors cannot grow much larger than the size of a pinhead.
Despite this knowledge, scientists struggled to understand what caused the growth of these new blood vessels. In the 1960s and 1970s, medical scientist Judah Folkman championed the idea that the molecular basis for blood vessel development should become a new focus in cancer research. Ferrara’s 1989 discovery of VEGF's role in blood vessel formation presented a target for cancer treatment: turn off the tumor's ability to use VEGF and perhaps one could halt construction of blood vessels and starve tumor growth. In 2004 Avastin, a VEGF-blocking antibody, became the first drug focused on stopping vascular growth to be approved for cancer treatment. Despite the fanfare surrounding this new possible cure for cancer, the impact of anti-angiogenesis drugs failed to meet expectations. Combinations of Avastin and chemotherapy did extend patients’ lives, but on average only by a few months.
“High performance liquid chromatography,” University of California-Davis ChemWiki, accessed May 7, 2014, http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Analytical_Chemistry/Instrumental_Analysis/Chromatography/High_performance_liquid_chromatography.
Accession File 2013.0180, National Museum of American History.
Jeff Minton and Deborah Franklin, “Medicine: Napoleone Ferrara,” Discover Magazine, November 25, 2004, accessed May 7, 2014, http://discovermagazine.com/2004/nov/medicine#.Uk7vXyjufzI
Gina Kolata, “Hope in the Lab: A Special Report. A Cautious Awe Greets Drugs That Eradicate Tumors in Mice,” New York Times, May 3, 1998, accessed May 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/03/us/hope-lab-special-report-cautious-awe-greets-drugs-that-eradicate-tumors-mice.html.
Erika Check Hayden, “Cutting off cancer’s supply lines,” Nature, April 8, 2009, accessed May 7, 2014, http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090408/full/458686b.html.
Alla Katsnelson, “Tumors grow their own blood vessels," Scientific American, November 21 2010, accessed May 7, 2014, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tumors-grow-their-own-vessels.
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Gilson, Inc.
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Gift of Genentech
Science & Scientific Instruments
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National Museum of American History


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