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University of Iowa News Release


May 18, 2007

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center Announces Research Seed Grants

Leaders of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa today announced the recipients of 2007 American Cancer Society (ACS) "seed" grant awards.

These awards help junior faculty members and independent research scientists initiate their careers in cancer research and provide them with funds for the purpose of exploring new ideas related to the cause, prevention and therapy of cancer.

The researchers receiving the grants are:

-- Kris DeMali, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry, University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine; $30,000

Title: Vinculin Targets as Breast Cancer Chemotherapeutics

In order to spread to other parts of the body (called invasion and metastasis), breast cancer cells must lose contact with their neighbors. Two molecules, called vinculin and cadherin, participate in this contact between neighboring cells. The purpose of this proposal is to determine if a treatment that interferes with these molecules might impact on the invasion of tumor cells that occurs during breast cancer.

-- Paloma H. Giangrande, Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, UI Carver College of Medicine; $30,000

Title: Targeting Her2/neu Expressing Cells in the Setting of Breast Cancers Using RNA Aptamers

RNA is usually thought of as the molecule that helps turn genes into proteins. The goal of this project is to use bi-functional RNA therapy in two new ways. First, the RNA treatment will be designed to stick specifically to Her2/neu, a target on the surface of breast cancer cells. Second, a different part of the RNA treatment will be designed to enter the breast cancer cell and block the function of the cell, thereby preventing it from growing or behaving like a cancer cell.

-- Geraldine Jacobson, M.D., clinical associate professor and associate chair of radiation oncology, UI Carver College of Medicine; $17,919

Title: Effect of a Yoga Intervention on Fatigue, Distress and Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients: A Randomized Pilot Study

-- Toshiki Itoh, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, UI Carver College of Medicine; $30,000

Title: The Role of DDB2 in Lung Cancer Suppression

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer worldwide. Despite the extensive characterization of genetic changes associated with this disorder, lung cancer remains very difficult to cure because many genes/pathways are involved in the development, growth and spread of lung cancer. Two molecules that interact to inhibit abnormal growth of cells are called p53 and DDB2. Little is known about the role of DDB2 in lung cancer. Studies will be done to determine how DDB2 suppresses lung cancer.

John H. Lee, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology - head and neck surgery, UI Carver College of Medicine; $30,000

Title: Immune Cell Requirements for Clearing HPV-Positive Head and Neck Cancer

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of 25 percent of head and neck cancers. Surprisingly, patients with HPV-positive cancers are more likely to have cancers that have spread, yet are still more curable than their HPV-negative counterparts. In an attempt to understand the mechanism related to the growth of head and neck cancer we have created an HPV-positive and HPV-negative mouse cancer model. The studies in this grant will identify which immune cells are required to develop an anti-tumor response. This understanding will provide a critical rationale for developing an immune-related strategy that may help cure more HPV-positive cancers.

Aliye Uc, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, UI Carver College of Medicine; $20,000

Title: Heme Oxygenase-1 as a Modulator of Colonic Epithelial Cell Proliferation and Carcinogenesis

Colon cancer remains a significant global health concern. It is the third most-prevalent cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Long-term consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. Heme, which is abundant in red meat, might be a cause of increased colon cancer risk, but the mechanism by which heme induces colon cancer is not known. We will study a molecule called heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) that may explain the link between red meat intake and colon cancer. Our objective is to define the role of HO-1 in colon cancer formation and to use the HO-1 pathway as a target for possible colon cancer treatment.

The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI 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.

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