2004 Fall Research Awardees

The Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation funded six research grants and/or fellowships in its latest round of support, providing nearly one-half million dollars to promising researchers nationwide.

Ann-Marie Simeone
University of Texas
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Almost half of women diagnosed with breast cancer after menopause are obese. These women also have a higher risk of developing secondary breast malignancies even after chemotherapy and mastectomy.  Simeone is hoping to find an effective way to prevent these secondary cancers and reduce the death rate in these women. She believes that higher levels of the hormones prostaglandin E2 and leptin decrease these patients’ sensitivity to chemopreventive drugs, including the drug Tamoxifen.   Simeone hopes to discover why this happens — information that will help in the development of more effective, tailored chemopreventive strategies that would benefit obese breast cancer patients and improve their clinical outcome.

Vadim Backman, Ph.D.
Fellow:  Young L. Kim, Ph.D.
Northwestern University

Colon cancer is curable if detected early. And because it grows slowly over time, it can be diagnosed at an early stage. Drs. Backman and Kim are examining a way to use the “field effect” to predict pre-cancerous changes. The field effect refers to the fact that the entire colon changes when a localized tumor in the colon forms.  Identification of early field changes in normal appearing pre-cancerous tissue is important in identifying people at high risk for colorectal cancer. These researchers have developed a technique called “light scattering fingerprinting” that uses a fiber optic probe sensitive enough to visualize even minor changes in colon tissue. They will test the technique in rats and hope to create a simple marker system of tissue changes that may signal cancer risk. The technique could easily be used by primary care physicians during a patient’s annual physical exams.

Swati Nagar, Ph.D

Temple University

PhIP is a cancer causing compound commonly found in well-cooked meat, which has been  shown to increase colorectal and breast cancer risk. The body contains enzymes that help make the compound less toxic, but their effectiveness varies in one person from the next, depending on an individual’s genetic make-up. Dr. Nagar is studying these genetic differences in hopes of better understanding genetic differences and cancer risk — information that may help improve the effectiveness of chemopreventives in the body.

James M. Ford, M.D.
Fellow:  Allison W. Kurian, M.D.
Stanford University

New evidence suggests that statins, drugs used to treat high cholesterol, might also prevent breast cancer. In this study, Drs. Ford and Kurian are testing the value of one statin called fluvastatin.  Women with a high genetic risk for the disease will receive the drug over a six-month period.  Then needle biopsies will be performed to see if the drug decreases the proportion of women with abnormal breast duct cells and whether it can decrease other markers associated with breast cancer risk, including breast appearance on imaging tests, and how breast cells grow and repair themselves.

Alfonso Bellacosa, M.D.
Fox Chase Cancer Center

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is easily prevented if detected early, but better, more cost effective ways to detect the disease are needed. CRC develops over time as benign growths, called polyps, turn into malignant tumors. This is the result of genetic mutation of cells.  Dr. Bellascosa is working to develop a way to identify these early genetic changes in colon tissue using a technology called “microarray analysis,” which maps out the genetic makeup of the genes. With this type of information,scientists may be able to develop specific drugs or diets to prevent the development of polyps — and of colorectal cancer.

Robert J. Korst, M.D.
Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer in the nation. Surgery is the best treatment choice, but many patients will develop a new lung cancer after their procedure.  Called second primary lung cancer (SPLC), risk for this malignancy increases over time.  CT-scans of the chest can be used after surgery to screen for SPLC.  Dr. Korst is examining this test to determine if it is an cost-effective and useful screening tool and whether the CT-scan is a better test than plain chest x-ray for the early detection of SPLC — results that may help increase lung cancer patients’ chance for survival.