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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 30, 2005

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center At UI Awards Seed Grants

The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa has awarded a total of $104,000 in American Cancer Society seed grants, as well as seed grants supported from cancer center endowment funds, to six researchers in three different UI colleges. The awards were effective Dec. 1.

Seed grants help junior faculty members and independent research scientists initiate careers in cancer research and fund studies of new ideas related to the causes, prevention and therapy of cancer.

Vladimir Badovinac, Ph.D., associate research scientist in microbiology in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, received $19,000 for a study related to immunotherapy, which involves using the body's cellular immune response system to fight cancerous tumors. Immunotherapy can increase the number of immune cells called CD8+ T cells to fight tumors. However, the treatment requires long intervals between therapies, which limits efficiency. The team will use models to study a possible way to reduce the interval and more rapidly produce high numbers of these tumor-specific immune cells.

Tannin Fuja, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor of speech pathology and audiology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, received $20,000 to study the role that vocal fold stellate cells might play in laryngeal cancer. Stellate cells in the liver and pancreas already are known to play a role in cancer growth in those organs.

Bruce Hostager, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics in the UI Carver College of Medicine, received $15,000 to advance understanding of certain proteins in the tumor necrosis factor receptor family. These proteins act as sensors on immune system cells and help respond to infectious agents. When the proteins do not function properly, they may contribute to the development of lymphoma and other cancers.

Toshiki Itoh, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology in the UI Carver College of Medicine, received $15,000 to analyze the tumor suppressor functions of p53, a gene that normally helps prevent many types of cancer. Learning more about the gene is an important step in the possible development of efficient cancer therapies.

Laura Stunz, Ph.D., associate research scientist in microbiology in the UI Carver College of Medicine, received $15,000 for a study related to lymphoma. Certain types of lymphomas can occur in people, especially children, after they receive an organ or bone marrow transplant. The team will investigate whether a protein coded by the Epstein-Barr virus, which often affects transplant patients, may contribute to uncontrolled growth of the lymphoma cells. Knowing more about the protein may lead to treatments that stop the unwanted effects.

Xiaodong Wu, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the UI College of Engineering and of radiation oncology in the UI Carver College of Medicine, received $20,000 to study improved ways to deliver radiation precisely to cancers. Because breathing can result in movement of the cancer, Wu and colleagues seek to develop real-time tracking to compensate for tumor motion during the use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Treatments that better account for such bodily movement would allow for more precise delivery of radiation and, thus, better therapy with fewer side effects.

Fuja, Hostager, Itoh and Stunz are research members of the cancer center.

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. Visit the center online at

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

PHOTOS: If a Web site is listed, the photo is available only in 144 dpi.

Badovinac: available on request; Stunz: may have available on request





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

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660