CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 384-4638
Release: Dec. 18, 2002
UI investigators receive American Cancer Society seed grants
Six researchers with the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University
of Iowa have received American Cancer Society (ACS) "seed" grants,
which are made to junior faculty and independent research scientists to help
initiate their careers in cancer research.
The young investigators will use the funds to explore promising ideas related
to the causes, prevention and treatment of cancer. George Weiner, M.D., director
of the center and C.E. Block Professor of Cancer Research and Internal Medicine,
announced Dec. 1 that the six investigators, representing five different UI
departments, were each awarded one-year, $20,000 grants.
C. Goswami, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology, will study manipulating
reactive oxygen species (ROS) in order to improve cancer treatment. Cancer
therapies, including ionizing radiation, are known to produce ROS. "Because
reactive oxygen species seem to be involved in many cellular processes, including
radiation response, a detailed understanding of the possible role of ROS in
cancer therapy outcome is highly essential," Goswami said. Increasing
the amount of ROS could make tumor cells more vulnerable to radiotherapy.
Using gene therapy to change the amount of a certain antioxidant enzyme in
cancer cells, the team will study the effect of over-producing ROS on cancer
therapy outcome. "Such a combination of gene and radiation therapies
could lead to better cancer treatment," Goswami said.
Heusel, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, was awarded funds to
study how human natural killer (NK) cells are activated. NK cells are lymphocyctes
(white blood cell) that are critically important in defense against certain
viral infections. In addition, NK cells are involved in other conditions,
including pregnancy, and in beneficial activities for some bone marrow transplant
recipients -- reducing graft-vs.-host disease and graft-vs.-leukemia effects
(so-called "NK alloreactivity"), Heusel explained. "NK cells
themselves may be transformed during viral infection, giving rise to an aggressive
leukemia or lymphoma," Heusel said. "Dissecting the specific NK
cell receptors and their activating ligands is the next logical step in understanding
how NK cells participate in immune responses. These mechanisms underlie NK
cell activation in all of these physiologic and pathologic phenomena."
Konety, M.D., assistant professor of urology, received funds for a project
to examine the long-term impact of various treatments for different types
of bladder cancer on the quality of life for patients. "Superficial bladder
cancer is prone to reoccur, requiring multiple courses of treatment which
may have a cumulative impact on the patient's quality of life," Konety
said. "Likewise, advanced bladder cancer requiring removal of the bladder
or radiation can also significantly impact the patient's self-image and quality
of life even for years after treatment."
Smith, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology, received a grant to evaluate
human papillomavirus (HPV) in hypopharyngeal and laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma.
Preliminary evidence suggests that, in addition to alcohol and tobacco use,
viral infection, specifically HPV, may contribute to some head and neck cancers,
Smith said. This study will evaluate the role of HPV infection in cancerous
cells lining the hypopharynx, which is the bottom part of the throat, and
the larynx, or "voice box," which includes the vocal cords. "The
results of this study may allow us to modify current therapy for hypopharyngeal
and laryngeal cancers, which may include vaccine therapy in the future,"
Warren, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, received an award
for a pilot study on dendritic cell generation and immunobiology. Using the
immune system to fight cancer is a rapidly growing approach in cancer treatment.
A special type of immune cell called a dendritic cell can potently "rev
up" the immune system to fight cancer. "My research study will focus
on how to make dendritic cells from precursor cells in patient's blood, and
we will then use this information to design clinical trials," Warren
Wooldridge, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, received support
for his project on the impact of CpG-ODN in relapsed or progressive chronic
lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). In this cancer, abnormal lymphocytes, or white
blood cells, accumulate in the blood, bone marrow and lymph system. Normal
lymphocytes help clear infection; however, the overabundance of abnormal lymphocytes
blocks the production of red blood cells and platelets, and makes patients
susceptible to infection. This study will examine the effects of DNA-containing
CpG sequences on CLL cells to better understand how such agents might interact
with monoclonal antibodies as a treatment. "Monoclonal antibodies, such
as rituximab and alemtuzumab, are effective agents for treating chronic lymphocytic
leukemia, and our goal is to determine if CpG-ODN can enhance that activity,"
The American Cancer Society (ACS), based in Atlanta, has state divisions
and more than 3,400 local offices. Visit ACS online at www.cancer.org/.
The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute
(NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive
cancer centers like the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center are recognized
as the leaders in developing new approaches to cancer prevention and cancer
care, conducting leading-edge research and educating the public about cancer.
Visit the cancer center online at www.uihealthcare.com/depts/cancercenter
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between
the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and
Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and
services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.