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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 1, 2007

Three UI researchers receive grants to study breast cancer

Three University of Iowa researchers have been awarded a total of $120,000 in 2007 Breast Cancer Grant Opportunity awards, which were made through the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI. The one-year, $40,000 grants are effective Nov. 1.

The three recipients -- Adam Dupuy, Sonia Sugg and Sujatha Venkataraman -- are all members of the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. Dupuy and Sugg also are members of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dupuy, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology, will investigate how a gene called Plag1 contributes to breast tumors in mice. The researchers also will try to identify new breast cancer genes in mouse models by using the "sleeping beauty" transposon system. This system uses "jumping" genes, called transposons, to cause mutations that lead to cancer. By tracking the transposons, the team will be able to find new genes that contribute to breast cancer.

Sugg, M.D., UI associate professor of surgery, aims to identify the influence of genetic background on susceptibility and resistance to breast cancer caused by carcinogens in a rat model. Areas of chromosomal gains or losses in these rat breast cancers will be investigated. The team will try to develop a similar model using estrogen to cause cancer. The long-term goal is to translate genetic findings in rats in order to identify human genes that contribute to breast cancer risk.

Venkataraman, Ph.D., UI assistant research scientist in radiation oncology and the free radical and radiation biology program, will study prolyl hydroxylase enzymes, which regulate key genes that control tumor growth. The team will investigate whether DNA methylation -- the addition of methyl groups to DNA -- blocks the ability of genes to produce these enzymes that normally suppress tumor growth. A major goal of the research is to investigate new approaches to reverse DNA methylation and thereby develop tailored therapies for breast cancers that are resistant to hormone therapy.

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

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

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