Former Texas A&M chemist learns compound he created is helping cure cancer in Japan

Ralph Zingaro received a letter letting him know about the research.
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 11:28 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - A former Texas A&M University chemist received a letter in the mail that surprised him.

It was addressed to him and came all the way from Japan. As Ralph Zingaro opened the letter and began reading, he said he realized receiving it was no mistake.

A compound that Zingaro helped create at a Texas A&M lab half a century ago, is being used to cure a specific kind of cancer through clinical trials in Japan.

“My arsenic attached to the glutathione had passed all of the clinical testings and would be released soon as a cancer-curing agent for a particular kind of cancer. It’s called T-Cell Lymphoma,” said Zingaro.

This success did not happen overnight. Zingaro came to Texas A&M in 1954 and created the compound with a couple of coworkers. He says a representative from the National Institutes of Health reached out to see if they could use it in their cancer research.

Fast-forward years later, he began working with MD Anderson in the 1970s to push this compound out, but says it never had a real chance until a venture capital company took over and sold it to a company in Japan called Solasia.

“I think this Japanese company did a very, very thorough job, because it took them seven years to do it for one thing, and I know they did testing in both Japan and Korea,” said Zingaro.

According to a press release from Solasia, they named the compound Darinaparsin. The release says, “Darinaparsin is a novel mitochondrial targeting drug (organic arsenic compound) that has been developed for the treatment of various hematological cancers and solid cancers. This study was conducted as a multinational, multicentre, single-arm, open-label, non-randomized study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of darinaparsin monotherapy in relapsed or refractory patients with PTCL in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.”

At 94-years-old, Zingaro says he feels lucky to know that his work, which began so long ago, could potentially save lives.

“It gives people with this disease a longer life cure, some of them, and they will have a happier life so it made me feel good,” said Zingaro.

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