2013 Research Awardees
Maarten Bosland, D.V.Sc., Ph.D., University of Illinois – Chicago
Named Award: Awesome Games Done Quick Research Grant in Prostate Cancer
What he will study: Prevention of Hormone-Induced Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common (non-skin) cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death. Male sex hormones (androgens) are considered critical factors in prostate cancer development. Because estrogens are formed from androgens in males, it is conceivable that estrogens play a role in prostate carcinogenesis. Dr. Bosland and his team plan to collect preliminary data to examine how androgens and estrogens interact, as a possible point at which to interfere in the development of prostate cancer.
Sonia de Assis, Ph.D., Georgetown University
Named Award: Holden Family Research Grant in Breast Cancer Prevention
What she will study: Paternal Obesity and Reprogramming of Breast Cancer Risk in their Offspring
Obesity is one of the few modifiable risk factors for breast cancer. Some studies show that a mother’s obesity and nutrition during pregnancy can also affect her daughter’s breast cancer risk; however, no studies have investigated the impact of a father’s obesity or dietary habits on breast cancer risk in his children using a rat model of the disease. Dr. de Assis and her team will investigate whether paternal obesity around the time of conception reprograms a father’s germ-line epigenome (chemical switches that turns genes on and off) and increases a daughter’s likelihood of developing breast cancer.
Carcinogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains the third leading cause of cancer–related deaths worldwide. Currently, no biomarkers exist for early detection, and death occurs soon after diagnosis. Dr. Fu will test a potential biomarker, gamma-OH-Acr-dG, for the early detection of liver cancer and will also examine a mechanism-based method of using omega-3 fatty acids and the antioxidant from green tea as a novel combined cancer chemopreventive.
Ronan Kelly, M.D., M.B.A., Johns Hopkins University
Named Award: Lilly USA Research Award in Cancer Prevention and Early Detection
What he will study: Targeting the hedgehog pathway in Barrett’s Esophagus using Itraconazole
Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the most common medical conditions in the United States and it is also a predisposing condition to esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), a lethal cancer with increasing numbers of new cases and a dismal 5-year survival rate. About 10% to 15% of patients with GERD develop Barrett’s Esophagus (BE), a well-established premalignant condition for EAC. Innovative endoscopic treatments have been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of BE. But recurrent or resistant BE is not uncommon in some patients. Dr. Kelly and his team will build on the work of colleagues at Johns Hopkins to investigate if Hedgehog signaling is significant in recurrent/resistant BE and whether Itraconazole, a commonly used antifungal treatment, could be used as a chemo-preventive agent.
One strategy to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in the general population is the chemopreventive use of metformin, a commonly used diabetes medication. Dr. Mamtani and his team will determine whether metformin use is associated with a decrease in prostate cancer risk and less-aggressive prostate cancer compared to sulfonylureas, the common alternative therapy for diabetes. “The results of this study could lead to rapid clinical translation and future interventional trials of metformin for the primary prevention of prostate cancer in patients with and without diabetes,” Dr. Mamtani said.
Little is known about the health effects of electronic-cigarettes (ECIGS), and yet they are sometimes advertised as safe alternatives to smoking. Data are needed on whether ECIGS cause cancer. Dr. Park and her team will assess whether normal lung cells exposed to ECIGs turn into cancerous cells. “We expect to be the first group to determine if ECIGs have the potential to cause cancer and to have information about which smokers will have negative health responses to ECIGs,” says Dr. Park. “By informing Food and Drug Administration ECIG policy, [our] research will have a significant impact on lung cancer prevention.”
Kathryn Taylor, Ph.D., Georgetown University
Named Award: Richard C. Devereaux Outstanding Investigator Award in Lung Cancer Prevention
What she will study: Smoking Cessation in Lung Cancer Screening Participants
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (CT) in adults ages 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Studies suggest that concurrent smoking cessation programs will be essential in order to achieve the full benefit of screening. Dr. Taylor and her team will develop and pilot test a telephone counseling cessation intervention. They will capitalize on the critical ‘teachable moment’ of learning of one’s screening result. “The long-term goal is to evaluate the telephone counseling intervention in a multisite intervention trial and ultimately, to disseminate it for use by lung screening programs,” says Dr. Taylor.
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