2007 Spring Awardees

2007 Spring Awardees

2007 Spring Research Awardees

Pamela Beatty, Ph.D.
Olivera Finn, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

This project focuses on combating inflammatory bowel diseases and their associated increased risk for developing colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the Western world. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are two conditions that are recognized as risk factors for colorectal cancer and as yet are uncurable. In their research, Drs. Beatty and Finn will explore the potential of creating a preventive vaccine that would boost the immune system to better recognize and eliminate tumor cells. They hope the vaccine will eventually be used to prevent the onset or recurrence of colorectal cancer and treat chronic colitis, and they expect that the data they generate from this study will support further research in clinical trials.

Xiang-Lin Tan, Ph.D.
Simon Spivack, Ph.D.
Health Research, Inc./New York State Department of Health

Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths of both men and women in the United States and all over the world. Working off of recent research findings that show a diet high in fruits and vegetables plays a role in combating carcinogenic progression, this project will examine the specific molecular mechanisms responsible for shutting down harmful oxidants. Drs. Tan and Spivak will develop an in vitro monitoring system that closely watches one particular protein in hopes that it may eventually lead to new system for screening potential chemopreventive agents for lung cancer.

Jennifer Warren, Ph.D.
Kola Okuyemi, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Cigarette smoking rates among urban African Americans are unacceptably high. Although African Americans smoke fewer cigarettes daily, they experience higher rates of lung cancer than other ethnic groups. Though many African Americans want to stop, they are less likely to seek help and therefore are less successful than their white counterparts in their attempts to quit smoking. As a way to overcome some of the barriers faced by African Americans who want to quit smoking, Drs. Warren and Okuyemi will explore using an Internet-based intervention tool. Research shows African Americans use the Internet just the same as other groups, and the scientists hope this tool will be an accessible way for African Americans to receive this help. This study is designed to serve as a pilot for large clinical trials for smoking cessation interventions in African American smokers.

Katherine Crew, Ph.D.
Columbia University

Breast cancer is one of the most deadly cancers to affect women, and though significant strides have been taken to lessen the death toll, it still remains a main cause of cancer death. Currently, tamoxifen is the only FDA-approved drug to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, however due to its side effects, it has not been used extensively. In building on existing clinical data, Dr. Crew will monitor the progress and biomarkers of 20 high-risk women who will take Vitamin D supplements during the course of this study. It is believed that Vitamin D may induce a preventive effect, and Dr. Crew hopes the results of this study lead to larger-scale trials to evaluate the potential of using high doses of Vitamin D in the prevention of breast cancer.

William Klein, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. despite recent gains in the rates of screening. Many people continue to be off-schedule for their recommended screenings, leading to many cases being diagnosed at much later stages when it is more difficult to treat. Though there are certainly a number of reasons for this, Dr. Klein will specifically study the way screening messages are delivered to encourage individuals over age 50 to get the tests. He will frame messages to see if people respond more favorably to learning what they could gain from the tests or what they could lose by not getting the tests. The goal is to learn which one is the more persuasive way of framing the message to stay on schedule with screenings, hopefully leading to a better understanding of how to best promote the message.

Barbara Schneider, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

For nearly 30 years, the scientific community has known that a particular substance found in high concentrations within broccoli, and specifically broccoli sprouts, helps cells bolster their own defenses against cancer-causing agents. Dr. Schneider will test this substance, sulforaphane, to see how it responds when battling stomach cancer cells directly. By studying the RNA from the cells that are introduced to the broccoli sprout extract, she will be able to monitor the biochemical changes that occur within the affected genes. Dr. Schneider hopes this work will offer further understanding of what happens to proteins when combated directly with this beneficial compound.

Amanda Marzo, Ph.D.
Andres Jaramillo, Ph.D.

Rush University Medical Center

Despite of improvements in therapy, the survival of breast cancer patients with advanced or metastatic disease is still very poor. This demonstrates the need for new approaches in therapy and identification of high-risk individuals. Dr. Jaramillo will investigate the breast cancer marker mammaglobin-A and see if its recognition by cancer-fighting lymphocytes produces a protective immune system response to breast cancer. Dr. Jamarillo hopes these studies could lead to the development of a breast cancer vaccine that would ramp up the body’s natural defenses.

Raymond Konger, Ph.D.
Indiana University – Indianapolis

Sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, both melanoma and non-melanoma. Though melanoma is the more deadly of the two, non-melanoma skin cancers still pose a significant risk, especially to those with compromised immune systems. This research will examine a specific cellular protein, that when turned on by UV light, is critical to the formation of skin cancer. When activated, this protein causes a chain of events which results in cancer activity. Dr. Konger will explore the potential of using a drug to block this protein activation, thereby producing a chemopreventive effect.