Prevent Cancer Foundation Awards $720,000 in Research Grants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 25, 2008

MEDIA CONTACT:
Juhi Kunde
703-837-3687
juhi.kunde@preventcancer.org

Research in Cancer Prevention is Vital to Developing a Body of Knowledge to Fight the Nation’s Second Leading Killer

(Alexandria, VA) – The Prevent Cancer Foundation awarded its latest round of research grants and fellowships. The nine successful projects were selected from a pool of 77 applications nationwide. Each proposal passed rigorous examination by the Foundation’s Scientific Review Panel before being approved for funding.

“As Federal support continues to shrink, the availability of funds from the Foundation continues to be highly significant in the further development of the careers of junior cancer prevention researchers,” notes Bernard Levin, M.D., co-chairman of the Foundation’s Scientific Review Panel and professor emeritus at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Fellowships:

  • Although African American women have a lower incidence of breast cancer compared to white women, their mortality rate is higher. Some African American women are diagnosed with tumors that are more aggressive and more difficult to treat. The Foundation is supporting Laura Fejerman, Ph.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, under the guidance of Elad Ziv, M.D., to improve the understanding of tumor variability among African American breast cancer patients.
  • By turning off one gene, HMGA1, researchers have found that human uterine cancercells seem to grow like normal cells. This finding and others suggest this gene is a promising target for preventive uterine cancer drugs. Scientists have identified agents, such as COX2-inhibitors and green tea extracts, that may block some HMGA1 pathways. The Foundation is funding Joelle Hillion, Ph.D., at Johns Hopkins University, to work under the guidance of Linda Resar, M.D., on a project investigating these novel agents to prevent uterine cancer via the HMGA1 pathway.

Grants:

  • Only a fraction of long-term smokers developing lung cancer; so the ability to focus screening efforts in a high-risk subgroup could have great potential. The Foundation is funding Olga Gorlova, Ph.D., of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, in her efforts to estimate the benefit of lung cancer screening among high-risk individuals and to identify an optimal screening strategy for larger populations based on individual risk profiles.
  • Less than five percent of all cases of colon cancer can be attributed to known genetic mutations. Identifying and monitoring other genes involved in colon cancer may pave the way for early detection. The Foundation supports Courtney Gray-McGuire, Ph.D., at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in her efforts to locate a colon cancer susceptibility gene on chromosome nine.
  • There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that regularly including folate in the diet can reduce colorectal cancer risk. Folate is a key player in keeping DNA healthy, so it is likely that studying folate-dependent pathways will help identify new ways to prevent colorectal cancer. The Foundation is funding Zhenhua Liu, Ph.D., at Tufts University in Bedford, Mass., to examine folate-specific genetic pathways and early tumor growth and development.
  • People in underdeveloped countries, with a high risk of exposure to specific intestinal toxins from bacteria, seem to be protected from colorectal cancer. These toxins are known to potently activate guanylyl cyclase C, a protein inhibiting to intestinal tumor formation in mice. The Foundation is supporting Giovanni Pitari, M.D., Ph.D., at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, in his work to study the role of guanylyl cyclase C as a molecular target to prevent colorectal cancer.
  • Worldwide, as many as 500,000 people are diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, a common liver cancer, each year. The low five-year survival rate of 11 percent, as reported by the American Cancer Society in 2008, is likely because the cancer is identified in advanced stages, too late for effective treatment. The Foundation is funding Habtom Ressom, Ph.D., of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to identify biomarkers for the early detection of liver cancer.
  • The vast majority of adults who smoke picked up their first cigarettes during their teenage years. By the time they turned 18, they were regular smokers with a growing risk of lung cancer. By understanding factors that keep adolescents from beginning to smoke and progressing to regular smoking habits, more effective and practical smoking prevention programs can be developed. The Foundation is funding Daniel Rodriguez, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, to examine the effect of “antismoking parent practices” on adolescent smoking.
  • Oral cancer often goes unrecognized until its late stage where surgery can be less successful and more disfiguring. Most patients with oral cancer first had oral lesions which then became cancerous. But not all lesions are a sign of cancer: only 18 percent ever become cancerous. Differentiating between these types of lesions at an early stage could be key to saving lives. The Foundation is funding Xiaofeng Zhou, Ph.D., at the University of Illinois – Chicago, to identify the biomarker differences between the oral lesions that become cancerous and those that do not.

“I am delighted that our organization has chosen to support the research of these highly qualified scientists. Our hope is that our grants and fellowships will open the doors to additional innovative studies and to deeper understanding of cancer prevention and early detection,” says Carolyn Aldigé, president and founder of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Since 1985, the Foundation’s peer-reviewed grants have been awarded to more than 300 early-career scientists from more than 150 of the leading academic medical centers nationwide. The Foundation’s vigorous grants and fellowships selection process is similar to the process used at the National Institutes of Health.

Research proposals are reviewed by members of the distinguished Scientific Review Panel, drawn from institutions such as the National Cancer Institute, Georgetown University, Lombardi Cancer Center, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, Johns Hopkins Cancer Center and the Fox Chase Cancer Center.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation Board of Directors approves funding twice a year for grants and fellowships to promising scientists who are doing remarkable work in fighting cancer.  Selected grants and fellowships will receive $40,000 a year for two years.

For the current year, the deadlines for submitting proposals are February 28, 2008 and September 14, 2008. Visit www.preventcancer.org for details.

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Editor’s Note:
To view a videotaped interview with Dr. Bernard Levin, co-director of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Scientific Review Panel, about the importance of funding researchers in the area of cancer prevention, or to learn more about our research funding process and program, visit www.preventcancer.org.

About Prevent Cancer Foundation
The Prevent Cancer Foundation (formerly the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation) was started in 1985 when Founder and President Carolyn Aldigé first understood the power of prevention to defeat cancer – and recognized that too few of the country’s resources were used to promote cancer prevention research or education. Today, it is one of the nation’s leading health organizations and has catapulted cancer prevention to prominence.

Since its inception the Foundation has provided more than $97 million in support of cancer prevention and early detection research and education programs. The Foundation’s peer-reviewed grants have been awarded to more than 300 scientists from more than 150 of the leading academic medical centers nationwide. This research has been pivotal in developing a body of knowledge that is the basis for important cancer prevention and early detection strategies. For more information, please visit www.preventcancer.org.