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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 13, 2006

Cancer Seed Grants Awarded To Teams In Two Different UI Colleges

Researchers at the University of Iowa have been awarded a total of $80,000 in American Cancer Society seed grant support made through the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

Two teams are from the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and one team is from the UI College of Pharmacy. The seed grant program helps fund promising cancer research by junior faculty members and independent research scientists at the UI.

Adam Dupuy, Ph.D. (right), assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology, received $30,000 to lead a project with the ultimate goal of identifying genes that play a role in human cancer. The project uses a mouse-based system developed by the team. The system generates a variety of tumor types, including ovarian, breast and colon cancer, through the action of genetic elements called transposons. Capable of mutating genes, transposons also provide a "tag" that allows researchers to rapidly identify the genes that contribute to each tumor. These genes can then be examined in human tumors to determine if they play a role in human cancer.

Ernesto Fuentes, Ph.D. (left), assistant professor of biochemistry, will use an award of $20,000 to lead a study that focuses on certain proteins that regulate cell growth and thus could play a role in cancer therapies. When certain cellular proteins are not regulated, abnormal cellular growth can occur, which can lead to cancer. The team aims to better understand the function of regulatory proteins called guanine nucleotide exchange factors and how they regulate other proteins.

Aliasger Salem, Ph.D. (right), assistant professor of pharmaceutics, leads a project funded by a $30,000 award that aims to develop a vaccine to prevent and treat melanoma (skin cancer). Delivering melanoma-specific proteins or antigens into the body could stimulate a preventative or therapeutic immune response. However, using the proteins or antigens alone cannot stimulate a sufficiently effective response. The researchers will see if delivering the antigens along with certain additives, and targeting the antigens to certain cells, improves the immune response. A strong immunotherapy could be used as a stand-alone treatment or as a complementary treatment to alternative therapies.

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



Fuentes: photo available on request; contact


STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660