2007 Fall Research Awardees
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.
Joelle Hillion, Ph.D. (photo not available)
Linda Resar, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University
By turning off one gene, HMGA1, researchers have found that human uterine cancer cells 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.
Olga Gorlova, Ph.D. (photo not available)
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
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.
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