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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 8, 2007

UI Cancer and Aging Program funds pilot projects

The University of Iowa Cancer and Aging Program (CAP) has awarded a total of $196,872 in one-year grants to support pilot research projects related to cancer and aging.

The CAP Research Development Funding Initiative awards, which were effective Sept. 1, emphasize translational and clinical research.

The following five CAP projects were funded for one year:

--Mercedes Bern-Klug, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will lead a study to learn how to help family members as they make medical decisions with, or on behalf of, a loved one in a nursing home. The study's focus will be on decisions for nursing home residents with cancer. Family members will be interviewed in person about their experiences and preferences, and results will be shared with nursing home staff interested in helping families with medical decisions in the context of advanced chronic illness.

--Howard Butcher, Ph.D., associate professor in the UI College of Nursing, will evaluate the effect of structured written emotional expression -- which involves writing one's thoughts and feelings for 20 minutes -- with older family caregivers of loved ones in the later stages of cancer. Previous studies have shown that writing or journaling about one's thoughts and feelings about stressful and difficult situations promotes health by enhancing immune function and decreasing stress.

--Michael Henry, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular physiology and biophysics in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, will develop a new mouse model to determine the combined effects of aging and obesity on prostate cancer. Aging and obesity are risk factors for mortality from prostate cancer, but how these factors drive prostate cancer and the extent to which they do separately or together is unclear. The successful establishment of this model will enable a more detailed understanding of the interrelationship of aging and obesity on prostate cancer progression.

--Mary Horne, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology in the UI Carver College of Medicine, will study a growth inhibitory stress response protein, cyclin G2, and its function in cell cycle exit programs. Genomic DNA is continuously damaged by reactive oxygen species (ROS) free radicals generated through cellular metabolism and is further damaged by environmental radiation and chemical carcinogens. If not corrected, this damage ultimately leads to genomic instability and cancer. One safeguard program is cellular senescence, where cells withdraw from the cell cycle and lose the ability to divide. Horne's project will examine the relationship of cyclin G2 expression to the onset of stress-induced senescence in model cell culture systems and determine whether cyclin G2 expression facilitates this irreversible withdrawal from cell cycle progression.

--Marc Wold, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry in the UI Carver College of Medicine, will study DNA metabolism in proliferating cells. As cells age, they have a reduced ability to repair and maintain their DNA. The abnormal proliferation that is characteristic of cancer cells also is dependent on mutations in DNA maintenance pathways. Wold's project will focus on understanding the function a gene, called RPA4, which appears to support normal chromosome maintenance but does not support cellular proliferation. This study will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in cancer cell proliferation and the changes that occur when cells age, which could lead to new treatments that improve DNA repair in cells without increasing their potential for becoming cancerous.

CAP is a joint initiative of the UI Center on Aging and the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI, with the goal of expanding research in the areas of aging and cancer. The program is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging.

The UI Center on Aging fosters and supports interdisciplinary research, education and service throughout the campus and state to improve understanding of the aging process and the health and well being of older people. For more information, visit

For further information about the Cancer and Aging Program, visit

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, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032,