Nothing gets Donna Zhang more excited than unlocking medical mysteries

More answers. Better treatments. Improved lives.

Right now, she’s working to unlock one of those mysteries: why a protein can build or destroy a person’s resistance to environmental toxins and diseases, including cancer.

Making your gift to the Skaggs Challenge today will help our researchers unlock even more mysteries.

On a daily basis, we are all exposed to oxidants and environmental toxins that can cause stress on our bodies. We rely on the body’s natural ability to counteract these oxidants with complex antioxidant defense systems. Nrf2 is a protein that regulates these defense systems in our bodies. When working properly, Nrf2 protects us from harmful oxidative stress. But when Nrf2 is hijacked by cancer cells, Nrf2 protects those cancer cells from the very treatments intended to kill them.

Donna Zhang, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the UA College of Pharmacy. Her laboratory in the Skaggs Pharmaceutical Sciences Center has been focused on understanding the Nrf2 protein. Dr. Zhang is internationally recognized for her cutting-edge work in this area, which has garnered her the nickname “Nrf2 Queen.” Her work is moving us closer to the development of strategies to boost Nrf2 with dietary supplements to protect us from environmental toxins, to prevent cancer and to treat diabetes. Her laboratory is also developing drugs that inhibit Nrf2 in cancer and, thereby, increase the efficacy of anti-cancer drugs.

Her work has garnered multi-million dollar grants from the National Institutes of Health, funding a team of researchers that includes graduate and postdoctoral students. It is one of several programs in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology that represents our college’s leadership in life-saving discoveries.

Like her faculty colleagues, Dr. Zhang recognizes the impact that modern laboratories and collaborative workspaces will have on the trajectory for drug discovery, research and education at the UA College of Pharmacy.

"I made my gift to the Skaggs Challenge because the new facilities will open up new and exciting opportunities for research. It was an especially easy decision to make because all our gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar by The ALSAM Foundation."

Help us unlock more mysteries. Support Skaggs now.

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