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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 13, 2003

UI Receives Grant For New NIH Initiative On Aging And Cancer

The University of Iowa Center on Aging and the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI have received a five-year grant commitment from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging as part of the institutes' joint initiative to accelerate research into the relationship between aging and cancer.

Cancer death rates are highest among people age 65 and older, and the average age of cancer onset in Iowans is age 68. The UI was one of eight institutions selected for the new type of grant, which begins with a first-year award of $618,274 to the UI.

Under the leadership of the UI Center on Aging and the Holden Cancer Center, the research opportunities will be open to appropriate scientists of any discipline in the UI community, said the grant's principal investigator Robert Wallace, M.D., UI professor of epidemiology and the Irene Ensminger Stecher Cancer Professor.

"The purpose of the grant is to promote interdisciplinary research that brings together the interests and skills of experts in aging studies and geriatrics and applies them to the health problems of older cancer patients," said Wallace, who co-directs the UI Center on Aging with Kitty Buckwalter, Ph.D., UI associate provost for health sciences. "We will focus on translating important findings in aging for the betterment of cancer patients."

The grant primarily will provide funds for shared research resources -- a specialized database related to tracking cancer care and outcomes and an analytical laboratory for pharmacological investigation -- and large-scale pilot grants for interdisciplinary groups on campus.

"The research possibilities range from very basic molecular biology and genetics through pharmacology of cancer agents to population and behavioral studies," Wallace said.

Specific areas of research will include:

-- health outcomes in older cancer patients, led by Elizabeth Chrischilles, Ph.D., UI professor of epidemiology;

-- the basic mechanisms of antioxidants function in cancer progression, led by Larry Oberley, Ph.D., UI professor of radiation oncology; and

-- chemotherapeutic treatments in older patients with cancer.

The Cancer and Aging Steering Committee that pursued the grant also includes David Lubaroff, Ph.D., UI professor of urology and microbiology and the grant's co-principal investigator, and George Weiner, M.D., the Dr. C.E. Block Cancer Research Professor and director of the Holden Cancer Center. Lubaroff also is a researcher with the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

In addition, Raymond Hohl, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of internal medicine and pharmacology, and Lori Benz, program associate with the Center on Aging, contributed significantly to the proposal.

"The grants were available only to a small number of NCI-designated cancer centers, and the competition for them was intense," Weiner said. "One major reason we were successful was the commitment of faculty and staff from both the Carver College of Medicine and the College of Public Health, and the strong collaboration between the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UI Center on Aging."

Wallace added, "The award dovetails with our current scientific strengths and helps us respond to the people of Iowa because we have an older population."

The National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging are part of the National Institutes of Health. For more information, visit the NIH at

The UI Center on Aging was established in March 1990 in response to the changing demographics of Iowa and the need to educate health professions students and practicing physicians in aging. The center's primary role is to lead in translating aging related research, education and training efforts at the UI into practical service applications that benefit older Iowans.

The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers 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.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, Writer, 319-335-6660,