Times of Huntington-Northport

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A Hampton Inn will turn the old Huntington Town Hall into a boutique hotel. Rendering by Huntington Village Hotel Partners LLC

Developers will look to turn the old Huntington Town Hall into a Hampton Inn hotel. The $24 million proposed project by Holtsville-based Huntington Village Hotel Partners LLC would turn the more than 100-year-old former Town Hall, located at 227 Main St., into an 80-room hotel. 

The Town Hall building would be converted to the hotel’s lobby, breakfast room and gym. A 53,636-square-foot addition will be used for the guest rooms.

Rosario Cassata and George Tsunis, developers for the project, also intend to buy the property adjacent and across the street of the old government building for parking.

In addition, the project secured $2.8 million in tax breaks from the Suffolk Industrial Development Agency.

The tax breaks were awarded at a Feb. 13 Suffolk IDA meeting and include $1.8 million off property tax over a 15-year period. According to IDA documents, about 128 workers will be employed during the construction phase of the hotel. Once completed, the hotel will have 14 employees who will earn just over $39,700 per year.

Tony Catapano, executive director of the Suffolk County IDA, said he believes the hotel will bring in visitors from outside and around Long Island. 

“The historic nature [of the building] will draw people to it, there will definitely be interest from residents in Suffolk and Nassau County,” he said. 

The proximity of the hotel to the downtown area is another plus, the executive director of the agency said. 

“The hotel from downtown Huntington village is really walkable, and they’ll be able to take advantage of the local amenities,” he said. “The old Town Hall building is the eastern entrance to downtown and I think retrofitting it into a hotel will make [the entrance] beautiful.”

The IDA granted the tax incentives using a tourism exception to the state law that prohibits helping retailers. As part of the IDA’s Long Island First policy, the developers are required to buy materials from local companies and employ local construction workers.

This is not the first time a hotel has been proposed for the old Town Hall, back in 2014, the IDA backed a different project that would have cost upward of $10 million. It would have received $3 million in tax breaks over 15 years. The project ultimately failed to get off the ground.

According to IDA documents, the hotel is anticipated to open in the second quarter of 2021.

A Brit Reviews the UK’s Eventual Withdrawal from Europe

Stock photo

Part 3 of 3

When I started this series in March 2019, I wanted to give U.S. readers a Brit’s inside view on Brexit. The term has now become such common currency over here, rather like the Latin phrase “quid pro quo,” that all I need explain is that Brexit refers to Britain exiting the European Union, which it duly did Jan. 31 of this year. On the same date the U.S. Senate rejected further witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (R). It was hardly a red-letter day for western politics.

John Broven Photo by Diane Wattecamps

After publication of the first two articles, I was approached by residents of all age groups at the Stony Brook railroad station, in a deli, at a mall, in a coffee shop, at a party, even at an outdoor art show. Everyone expressed an intrigued interest in Brexit and, it’s fair to say, concern for my English home country. What on earth was going on? Why indulge in such potential self-harm?

When I left you with my June article, the United Kingdom and EU had agreed on another revised exit date, Oct. 31, but with no parliamentary majority the way forward was still far from clear. “Will there be a general election, second referendum, another EU extension or a hard no deal?” I asked.

It came to pass there was a general election Dec. 12 and a further EU extension to Jan. 31, with no second referendum or precipitous hard deal (to date). With the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU, what happened in the interim?

A third prime minister in three years

For a start, on July 24, Boris Johnson achieved the prize he had wanted from his days as a privileged aristocratic youth at Eton College and Oxford University: the prime ministership of the U.K. After being elected as leader of the Conservative Party (also known as the Tories), he took over from the hapless Theresa May (C) who was unable to deliver on her promise to leave the EU after three years in the hot seat.

Brexit had thus claimed another victim, making Johnson the third prime minster since David Cameron (C) fell on his sword after a dismal and inept Vote Remain campaign during the June 2016 referendum.

Without a working majority, Johnson was confronted by a parliament determined to ensure that if Brexit happened there would be no hard deal. The new prime minister even tried, unsuccessfully, to suspend parliament for five weeks in an effort to stifle debate and ram through the withdrawal agreement by Oct. 31. Queen Elizabeth II was inadvertently embroiled when she dutifully signed the prorogation request of Johnson, who made the flimsy pretense of needing time to prepare for the Queen’s Speech, but the U.K. Supreme Court ruled otherwise. I suspect Her Majesty was not amused. 

There was clearly a power battle being fought between parliament and the prime minister, reminiscent of the current war of attrition between Congress and Trump. 

The generally pro-Brexit Tory Party, with its band of rabid hardliners, was armed with the 52-48 percent Voter Leave victory of the 2016 referendum. Amid calls from the Brexiters for “democracy” to be respected and with a definite all-round war weariness in the nation, it was clearly going to be difficult for the main opposition parties — Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and the Greens — to overturn “the will of the people.” 

At one time, the charismatic speaker of the House of Commons, John Burcow, even invoked an arcane 1604 parliamentary principle to stifle a government motion. (Think about it, that’s 16 years before the Mayflower landed on our shores.) However, the opposition could not find agreement among themselves for a unified approach, even with voting support from 21 Tory rebels. This rump included former Chancellor of Exchequer Philip Hammond, Father of the House Ken Clarke and Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames. Incredibly these respected establishment figures were thrown out of the Tory Party in petulant retribution. You see what I mean about parliamentary drama.  

With time running out, the EU begrudgingly extended the Oct. 31 deadline to Jan. 31 after a last-minute fudged agreement with Johnson over the vexatious Irish border backstop question.

December general election

Parliament was still in deadlock, but eventually a general election was called for Dec. 12. Campaigning on a resonating “Get Brexit done” ticket, Johnson won a huge working majority of 80 seats to break the parliamentary impasse. His Conservative Party brushed aside the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, also Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Labour, in its worst general election result since 1935, ignominiously saw the demolition of its “red wall” in the industrial north of England, the traditional home of socialism. The Lib-Dems, under Jo Swinson, went all out with a remain message. Yet this bright young leader couldn’t articulate on the stump the benefits of staying in Europe and she even lost her own parliamentary seat. 

The main opposition winners were the Scottish Nationalist Party, under Nicola Sturgeon, which swept Scotland. Watch out for a possible future referendum for Scotland to leave the U.K. and become a member of the EU. 

Richard Tapp, of Burgess Hill, West Sussex, added in an email, “Besides the Scottish Nationalists, the pro-EU parties in Northern Ireland also did well, at the expense of the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party whose leader in Westminster lost his seat to the nationalists of Sinn Fein who campaign for a united Ireland — and so remain in the EU.” 

Johnson had targeted the disaffected, forgotten part of the nation — the provincial middle class as well as the working class — with a Trump-like populist message, just as the new prime minister had done beforehand with the referendum. The general election was a damning indictment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, both for his far-left policies and his “sit on the fence” approach to Brexit. 

Interestingly, there are concerns in the U.S. about the Democratic Party following the Labour/Corbyn route to self-destruction in the next election with a progressive socialist agenda. James Carville, President Bill Clinton’s (D) 1992 election-winning strategist, was particularly animated on the subject in the Financial Times and on “Morning Joe,” referring to the unelectable Corbyn by name.

Brexit is done

And so, with no obstacles in his way, Johnson “got it done” by signing a withdrawal agreement with the EU, meaning Britain officially left the union at the end of January after almost a half-century of membership. Brexit is now fully owned and controlled by the prime minister and his Conservative Party, with the background help of Dominic Cummings, the architect of the Vote Leave campaign’s victory in 2016. 

The coverage on BBC World News in Brussels revealed genuine European regret at the loss of Britain as a vital contributing member to the EU, including politicians from Poland and Sweden. Yet the expected party atmosphere in the U.K. didn’t materialize because the country was still split right down the middle — and it was raining on Farage’s celebration parade outside the Houses of Parliament. Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper had a perverse explanation for the low-keyed reaction: “On Jan. 31, many Brexiters spent their ultimate moment of triumph attacking elitist traitors instead of celebrating.” This revenge, he said, “is so much of the point of populism.” 

Those Brexit voters expecting a brand-new dawn, with a return to the glory days of the British Empire free of the EU yoke, will have to wait until at least Dec. 31 this year for all kinds of trade, security and legal negotiations to be agreed before the cord is cut. 

During this transition period the U.K. will continue in the EU’s custom union and single market, while still complying with EU rules (but without any more say in the lawmaking process in the European Parliament). Johnson has indicated there will be no extension, leading to the nightmare scenario of a possible no deal commencing Jan. 1, 2021. It will not be an easy negotiating ride.

I’m still of the view that a people’s referendum should never have been considered by Cameron on such a critical and complex matter, which will affect generations to come. His irresponsible bet was compounded by the Brexiters never explaining the downsides — and dangers — of leaving Europe, including diminished influence on the world stage. Already China is waiting in the wings.

Michael Hanna, of Hassocks, West Sussex, echoed my thoughts in an email on the night of Jan. 31: “In about two hours time Boris and his Gang will tear us out of the European Union on the say so of just 17.4 million, a mere 37 percent of the electorate. This is politically the saddest day of my life. For the last 47 years we have been members of the great European family of nations to which we should naturally belong. This has given us huge benefits which the Tory government is knowingly throwing away.”

With thanks for their on-the-spot observations to my British friends Roger Armstrong, Chris Bentley, Mike Hanna, Martin Hawkins, John Ridley and Richard Tapp. 

John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, who immigrated to the United States in 1995. He has written three award-winning (American) music history books and is currently editing the first book on New York blues.

Lingbo Zhang Photo from CSHL

By Daniel Dunaief

In the span of a few months, Lingbo Zhang, a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory fellow, has made discoveries involving two deadly blood cancers.

In September, Zhang, collaborating with researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, found a drug target that might eventually lead to a new treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome, which is a common form of blood cancer. The scientists published their work in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In January, Zhang published work that analyzed the genes that are active in acute myeloid leukemia, which has a five-year survival rate of only 33 percent. 

By studying 230 genes, Zhang found that this form of blood cancer is addicted to higher concentrations of vitamin B6, creating a potential target for future therapy. The CSHL scientist published this work in the journal Cancer Cell.

“We feel humbled that we found a target” for a future AML therapy, Zhang said of his latest discovery. “My lab partners and I think one day we can potentially translate our knowledge into a real therapy. The translational part gives us the energy and encouragement to work hard.”

Indeed, Zhang explained that his work broadly focuses on blood cancer, in which he looks for questions of medical importance. With MDS, he started with the view that many patients with this disease do not respond to the typical treatment using a hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO.

Lingbo Zhang

People with MDS typically have too few red blood cells, which are made in bone marrow. The hormone EPO converts progenitor immature versions of red blood cells into the ones that function in the body. A small percentage of MDS patients, however, respond to EPO. This occurs because people with this disease have a smaller pool of progenitor cells.

Zhang and his colleagues went upstream of those progenitor cells, searching for defective processes earlier in the pathway. They found that a protein receptor, CHRM4, decreases the production of cells that might become red blood cells. 

By inhibiting that receptor, they hoped to restore the red blood cell making process. In mice that have the same blood features as human MDS, this approach worked, restoring the machinery that leads to the production of red blood cells.

With both the MDS and the leukemia studies, these discoveries might lead to a future treatment, but are not necessarily the final step between understanding molecular signals and developing treatments. These findings are transitioning from basic discoveries into the preclinical development of novel therapies, Zhang said.

For MDS, the treatment may be effective with the inhibitor itself, while for AML, it will potentially be effective as part of a therapy in combination with other treatments.

In his work on leukemia, Zhang said the research went through several phases, each of which took several months. For starters, he screened all the potential target genes. Once he performed the initial work, he conducted a validation study, exploring each gene, one by one. Finally, he worked to validate the study.

After all that work, he discovered the role that the gene that makes PDXK, the enzyme that helps cells use vitamin B6, plays in contributing to cancer. Normal, healthy cells use vitamin B6 during metabolism to produce energy and grow. As with most cancers, leukemia involves more cell division than in a healthy cell, which means that the PDXK enzyme is more active.

Scott Lowe, a collaborator on the research and former CSHL fellow who is now the chair of Cancer Biology and Genetics at Memorial Sloan Kettering, expressed surprised at the finding. “While the action of certain vitamins has previously been linked to cancer, the specific links between vitamin B6 identified here were unexpected,” he said in a press release.

A postdoctoral researcher in Zhang’s lab who has been working on the project for two years, Bo Li plans to continue this research and hopes to find a more mechanistic understanding of the discovery.

While this vitamin contributes to cancer, people with leukemia shouldn’t reduce their consumption of B6, which is necessary in healthy cells. If normal and cancer cells both need this vitamin, how could this be a target for drugs?

The difference, Zhang explained, is in the concentration of the enzyme and, as a result, the B6.

PDXK is higher in leukemia. Reducing its activity by inhibiting this activity could affect the disease.

Working with a collaborator at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Zhang is hoping to develop a better chemical compound with the right property to target the activity of this gene and enzyme.

To conduct research into different diseases and pathways, Zhang works with a group of “very talented and hard working people,” in his lab, which includes a few postdoctoral researchers, a doctoral student, a few undergraduates and a technician, bringing his lab’s staff to eight people. “We also have very good collaborators at other institutes and we are able to manage several projects in parallel,” he said.

Zhang said he likes basic and translational science. The basic science brings “beautiful new theories that identify a detail nature created.” He also feels driven to “translate some of these basic discoveries into a potential treatment,” he said. He is working with a foundation and the hospital and receives patient information from them, which encourages him to work hard to seek ways to “benefit them.”

Down the road, he hopes to understand the hierarchical process that leads from stem cells to mature blood cells. By identifying a majority of the players or the regulators, he may be able to understand the different processes involved in the course of numerous diseases.

As for his current work, Zhang is pleased with the potential translational benefit of both discoveries. “I feel very happy that we can identify a target for leukemia and MDS,” he said.

Installation of the pre-treatment septic tank at Tom O'Dwyer's home in Strong's Neck. Photo from Tom O'Dwyer

By Perry Gershon

Suffolk County has a water crisis. We must do all we can to control our nitrogen waste to protect our drinking water, our soil, our rivers and our bays. The county and many of our towns have initiated rebate programs to encourage homeowners to install clean, nitrogen-removing septic systems. Suffolk County’s program, known as the Septic Improvement Program, or by the acronym SIP, has become a political football, and it’s the public and the environment that are the losers.

Perry Gershon. Photo from SCDC

SIP was designed to direct county payments directly to contractors, bypassing individual participants so their rebates would not be taxed as income. Suffolk County’s tax counsel delivered an opinion to the county attorney ruling that 1099 forms from SIP should go to contractors and not to consumers. This should have been the end of the story. However, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy (R), while engaged in a campaign against County Executive Steve Bellone (D) during the elections last year, disagreed with the tax opinion and inquired of the IRS if county payments might be taxable to homeowners? Despite protestations from the county and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the IRS, always in need of funds, said yes, why not? The ruling was issued earlier this month. So now unsuspecting homeowners are receiving 1099 forms reporting unforeseen additional taxable personal income. What is essentially a new tax is sure to both impact those who already participate and dissuade future participants.

What can be done? Bellone and his administration are working to come up with alternative structures for the SIP program. Perhaps more can be done to clarify that transactions are between the county and the contractors to satisfy the IRS? Or perhaps an offsetting tax rebate can be legislated? Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) has written a letter to the IRS demanding they reconsider the decision. But Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) remains silent. Instead of joining Suozzi, Zeldin seems to support his fellow Republican Kennedy and once again ignores ways to save money for his constituents.

Does this surprise you? It should not, given Zeldin’s poor record historically on environmental and financial matters. Or that Zeldin has recently worked against New Yorkers on the repeal of the SALT cap and on Trump’s retaliation against the state by suspending New York applications to the Trusted Traveler program. Zeldin’s Twitter feed offers perpetual praise of the president, attacks on our governor, but not a word on the septic taxation issue. Long Island needs representatives who will work for us — who have our back when the federal government takes shots at us. Zeldin doesn’t fight for us. We have a chance in November to show him how wrong that is.

Perry Gershon is a national commentator on business, trade, policy and politics. A congressional candidate for New York’s 1st District, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley.

Huntington Town Clerk Andrew Raia (R)officiated over the Valentine’s Day Marriage Ceremony Marathon that took place in Huntington Town Hall Feb. 14. Photo from Town of Huntington

One Huntington official carried on a town and family tradition Valentine’s Day.

Tiffany and Luke LeGrow, above, renew their vows as their children Shane and Blakley look on. Photo from Town of Huntington

Huntington Town Clerk Andrew Raia (R)officiated over the Valentine’s Day Marriage Ceremony Marathon that took place in Huntington Town Hall Feb. 14. The event was first initiated by his mother, former Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia, in 1995. It was an event the new town clerk was pleased to continue.

“I am thrilled to be continuing on the tradition established by my predecessor, Jo-Ann Raia, of hosting multiple wedding and renewal of vows ceremonies on Valentine’s Day here in Town Hall,” he said. “This event has always been received enthusiastically by the couples that have participated, and it was a privilege and a pleasure for me to unite these couples and to share in their happiness on this very special day.”

Raia performed eight wedding ceremonies and one vow renewal during the marathon. Among the couples were Victoria Espinoza and Alex Petroski. A few years ago, the couple met while working at TBR News Media. Espinoza went on to become the editor of The Times of Huntington & Northport and The Times of Smithtown before she left the media group in 2017, and Petroski was the managing editor and editor of The Port Times Record and The Village Beacon Record before he left at the end of 2018. Jo-Ann Raia remembered Espinoza covering the event in the past.

“I am very proud of the way the new town clerk, Andrew Raia, planned his first Valentine’s Day Marriage Marathon, and I am pleased to see my tradition of 25 years continued,” Jo-Ann Raia said. “In fact, Victoria and Alex Petroski met at The Times of Huntington newspaper, and Victoria covered for the Times Beacon Record several years of my Valentine’s Day Marriage Marathon, and I’m excited they took the opportunity of getting married at Town Hall.”

Couples were able to bring family and friends along for support and 31 local merchants consisting of bakeries, restaurants, florists, supermarkets/food stores, pharmacies, gift shops, candy stores, a salon and spa donated items for this year’s celebration.

Roberta Fabiano
Food, fashion and fun to support a wonderful cause

By Melissa Arnold

Sometimes, you just need to go out and have a good time. Why not do it for a good cause?

On Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. the Ward Melville Heritage Organization will host its second annual A ‘Taste’ of Stony Brook Village … Ladies Night Out! fundraiser. The special event was created to boost WMHO’s long-standing support of breast cancer research at Stony Brook Medicine.

This year, the evening will be moved to the Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook to better accommodate the expected crowd, said WMHO president Gloria Rocchio. “The response was tremendous and enthusiastic last year when we had our first event at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center. There were almost too many people,” Rocchio joked. “The Three Village Inn will allow us to provide an even better experience.”

Mark Daniels

Nearly 25 shops and restaurants situated around the picturesque Stony Brook Village Center have signed up to participate in the event, which will include plenty of food and wine tastings, giveaways, basket raffles, a fashion show, live entertainment and much more.

The evening will also feature appearances from special guests. 

Radio personality Mark Daniels, most recently heard on the air at WALK 97.5, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. “WMHO has always done such a wonderful job working for their community,” said the East Setauket resident, who has worked many of their past fundraising events. “It’s an honor for me to be a part of this event, and it’s personally fulfilling to see everyone come together for a great cause.”

Renowned singer and guitarist Roberta Fabiano will also make an appearance. An alumna of Berklee College of Music and self-proclaimed child of rock and roll, Fabiano has appeared on numerous television shows and performed for high-profile audiences, among them five U.S. presidents and the queen of England. 

“I really enjoy doing performances for charity — in the past I’ve played for the Red Cross and the American Heart Association, and I play regularly now at the Long Island State Veterans Home,” said Fabiano, who lives in Stony Brook. “I was there last year when Gloria Rocchio presented the check to Stony Brook for breast cancer research, and I’m so proud to call this community my home.” 

Fabiano can’t say yet what she’ll be playing for the event because she plans her sets intuitively, relying on a crowd’s energy and feedback, but she’s known for playing everything from Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and even Lady Gaga.

WMHO’s commitment to supporting the search for a cure began with Long Island native and mother of seven Carol Martineau Baldwin, whose sons include actors Alec, Stephen, Billy and Daniel Baldwin.

According to Stony Brook Medicine, Carol lost her husband to lung cancer in 1983. A few years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she now lives in Syracuse, the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center at Stony Brook Medicine is named in her honor.

“Carol approached us 26 years ago with the hope of starting a charity run to benefit breast cancer research,” Rocchio said. “We’ve had one every year since, and have raised $1.5 million for the cause.”

By using these funds as seed money, Stony Brook has received more than $8 million in additional grant money, Rocchio added.

“Each year we get together with the head of the cancer center and meet the researchers who have benefited from our work to hear what they’ve been able to do,” she said. “We are truly making strides and it’s gratifying to be a part of that effort. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a cure for breast cancer came from Stony Brook?”

Participating shops and restaurants include Chico’s, Madison’s Niche, Mint, Blue Salon and Spa, Wiggs Opticians, Village Florist & Events, Roseland School of Dance, The Crushed Olive, Chocolate Works, Village Coffee Market, Premiere Pastry, The Country House, Crazy Beans, Mirabelle at Three Village Inn, Pentimento, Sweet Mamas, Ariti Kaziris Designs, Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, Watersedge Dental, Stony Brook Harbor Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals and the WMHO Heritage Gift Shop. 

Admission for the evening is $35 per person. Reservations are required and can be made via PayPal at www.stonybrookvillage.com/tsbv/ or by calling 631-689-5888. 

Special thanks to all who attended TBR News Media’s Readers’ Choice reception! Favorite local businesses were nominated by our readers and the first place winners were celebrated in style at the Three Village Inn with a red carpet, music, food, raffles and an award ceremony on Feb. 5. A wonderful time was had by all!

Photos by Beverly C. Tyler

From left, Martin Kaczocha, Robert Rizzo, Iwao Ojima and Lloyd Trotman. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

Pulling together experts from a variety of fields, scientists at Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have demonstrated promise in their efforts to tackle prostate cancer in a new way.

Led by Iwao Ojima, a distinguished professor of chemistry and director of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery at SBU, and Martin Kaczocha, an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at SBU, the multidisciplinary team recently received a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

The team is following up on its preliminary success with inhibitors of fatty acid binding protein 5, or FABP5. By tamping down on this protein in prostate cancer cells grown in the lab and in mouse models of the disease, these researchers treated metastatic cancer cells.

The scientists, who received a Translational Research Opportunities Seed Grant from the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook, were pleased with the next steps in their research.

“We’re happy that the National Cancer Institute validated our target,” said Kaczocha. It will help us “move forward and expand the scope of our work.”

From left, Robert Rizzo, Iwao Ojima, Martin Kaczocha and Lloyd Trotman. Photo from SBU

To be sure, scientists are generally cautiously optimistic about the translation between basic discoveries about mechanisms involved in cancer and the ability of doctors to use these findings in future therapies. Indeed, numerous promising early efforts haven’t always led to treatments. “Many tumors develop resistance to existing therapies through a variety of mechanisms,” said Kaczocha.

Still, the researchers involved in the current study hope the findings will eventually provide another tool in the treatment of prostate cancer.

The inhibitors scientists including Lloyd Trotman, a professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, are testing “appear to work in a context where [other treatments] lose efficacy. We hope this will translate” to a setting in which the researchers test their treatment in a mouse model of prostate cancer, explained Kaczocha. One of the goals of the NCI grant is to find further validation of this benefit.

Eventually, any possible treatment that utilizes these findings would involve a combination of inhibitors and existing therapeutics, Kaczocha said.

To create a product that might target this molecule, Ojima screened more than one million commercially available compounds on a computer. Out of over 1,000 compounds designed and analyzed, he selected about 120 for chemical synthesis and biological assay.

Artificial intelligence helps dig out known matters from a huge data, but not for newly created substances. Ojima found more than 30 compounds from the ones he synthesized and tested that were more advanced than the original project.

“It’s an ongoing process,” Ojima explained, adding that he believes he will find a more efficacious inhibitor. Ojima and Kaczocha are working with Robert Rizzo, a professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics & Statistics at SBU to develop these inhibitors.

Indeed, that process involves determining the stability, bioavailability and many other factors to minimize any adverse side effects

The side effects from this treatment connect to the original focus of the scientific team. As it turns out, inhibiting FABP5 causes pain relief because it reduces the breakdown of anandamide, or AEA, which is part of the body’s natural pain relief system. The inhibitors also have anti-inflammatory properties.

“This compound’s side effect is pretty beneficial for patients,” said Ojima.

The Long Island team is continuing to pursue the use of these compounds to manage pain as well.

Indeed, Kaczocha’s mother Zofia, who has pain associated with arthritis, asks him at least once a month when his drug will be available. The NCI grant will enable him and his colleagues to continue to build on their earlier work as they hope to translate their scientific discoveries into a clinical option.

“We are continuing our original research on the use of FABP5 inhibitors for pain control,” Ojima explained in an email.

As for their work with cancer, the inhibitors are “less cytotoxic,” Ojima said, and, in animal models, have been able to kill metastatic cancer cells that have become resistant to drug treatment. He suggested that the hope of this treatment is that it can sensitize the cancer cells or tumor to other therapies, which is a “promising approach.”

So far, Ojima, Kaczocha, Trotman and colleagues have tested this treatment only on tumors that haven’t yet metastasized, and not on tumors that have spread to other organs. “Our hope is that it may have some preventive effect in the early stages” of metastasis, Ojima said.

Ojima and Kaczocha were grateful for the seed grant from the medical school, which helped push the research forward. “A seed grant is very important for basic research,” Ojima added.

Other cancers, such as breast cancer, also have over expression of the same fatty acid binding protein. While the scientists are starting with prostate cancer, they hope to expand their work to other cancers as well, once they start gathering results.

La Jolla, California-based Artelo Biosciences partnered with these researchers starting in the spring of 2018. Artelo is licensing the patents for the target as well as the patents for lead compounds. Moving any compound through the beginning of the Food & Drug Administration testing is something Artelo will eventually take over, Kaczocha said. “They will have the financing to pursue this further,” he added.

As a researcher and a pharmacologist who is involved in basic and translational studies, Kaczocha said his hope is always to develop something in his career that will help patients.

Other research groups are also developing small molecule inhibitors to reduce the prevalence or activity of fatty acid binding proteins, but these other scientists have generally not focused on the role of these proteins in cancer. Fatty acid binding protein 4, for example, has a role in metabolic disorders.

“We have a relatively unique position where we are targeting prostate cancer” by reducing the activity and effect of this protein, Kaczocha said.

Trotman, whose lab has a unique animal model of prostate cancer that is a close mimic to the progression of prostate cancer in humans, offers an advantage in their research work, added Kaczocha.

 

Jessly Diaz, 14, of Huntington Station has been reported missing. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police have issued a Silver Alert for a missing Huntington Station woman who suffers from depression.

Jessly Diaz, 14, went missing from her home located at 7 Kingston Place  Feb. 16 at approximately 9 p.m. Diaz is Hispanic with brown hair and black eyes. Diaz is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs approximately 100 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white jacket with grey snowflakes.

Anyone with information on Diaz’s location is asked to call 911 or the Second Squad at 631-854-8252.

As a reminder, Silver Alert is a program implemented in Suffolk County that allows local law enforcement to share information with media outlets about individuals with special needs who have been reported missing.