2009 American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grants

The following Cancer Center research projects received funds from our ACS Institutional Research Grant.

Project: "Functional and Emotional Health of Older, Rural Cancer Survivors"

Principal Investigator: Kathleen Lyons, ScD
Cancer Type: Various
ACS Award (Special Interest Award): $22,547

Project Summary: Once cancer treatment has concluded, many older adults continue to experience limitations in their ability to do valued daily activities (i.e., taking care of themselves, their homes, their families, and engaging in work and leisure activities). A subgroup of older cancer survivors also experience emotional challenges such as depression. I am interested in developing and testing psychosocial rehabilitation interventions to help older adults who struggle with both physical limitations and emotional issues after completing cancer treatment. The proposed study will describe the emotional and physical health and the needs and goals of older adult cancer survivors at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. The project involves psychosocial research targeted at an underserved population in the sense that Norris Cotton Cancer Center serves a primarily rural population which is at risk of being underserved due to distance and geographic isolation that can pose barriers to accessing traditional rehabilitation services.

Project: "Role of mir-10a in Neural Stem Cells"

Principal Investigator: Arti Gaur, PhD
Cancer Type: Brain
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: The overarching aim of our laboratory is to understand how disorders of cell maturation and tissue development contribute to the establishment and growth of tumors of the nervous system. Knowledge of molecular biomarkers that may contribute to malignancy is essential for understanding the mechanisms underlying malignant transformation. We propose working on a project that involves elucidating the role of specific molecular biomarkers called microRNAs in regulating the pathology of Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive form of primary brain tumors. MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that function by regulating target gene expression. They play a critical role in developmental processes and are implicated in the pathogenesis of several human cancers, potentially providing etiologic insights as well as serving as both diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets for many different types of cancers. We intend to study the role of two candidate oncogenic human microRNAs, mir-10a and mir-10b and their targets in regulating the pathology of GBM. Our work could potentially lead to the use of microRNAs or their targets for designing effective strategies for GBM treatment. We believe our research is imperative, considering that GBM are among the most resistant of all human tumors to available modalities of treatment.

Project: "Modeling Mantle Cell Lymphoma in the Mouse"

Principal Investigator: Richard Maser, PhD
Cancer Type: Lymphoma
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a rare but difficult-to-treat form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, with a median survival of less than five years. Thus, new therapeutic regimens are desperately needed in order to produce long-lasting remission and eventual cures for the disease. However, the design of specific therapeutics for MCL will require a fuller understanding of the molecular alterations that promote its development. In this regard, the production of a more faithful mouse model of MCL can serve several purposes. In this proposal, my goal is to produce a more accurate MCL mouse model, designed to target the specific cell type involved in MCL, and to model the inherent genomic instability common to MCLs that likely contributes to the acquisition of cancer-causing genetic mutations. In addition to providing insight into the underlying biology of the disease, I anticipate that this mouse model will enable the discovery of those cooperating genetic events that have direct relevance to human MCL, pinpointing potentially valuable targets for tailored therapies. Lastly, by incorporating the ability to use non-invasive imaging technologies to track tumor development and response to therapies, this mouse MCL model can serve as an important intermediate in the development of novel treatment strategies, bridging the "bench to bedside" gap.

Project: "Quantitative Proteomics to Study Polo-Like Kinase 1 Dysregulation in Cancer"

Principal Investigator: Scott Gerber, PhD
Cancer Type: Colon/Rectum
ACS Award: $22,010

Project Summary: Polo-like kinase 1 is an essential enzyme that effects multiple important steps during cell division, a tightly regulated and highly coordinated event in the lifecycle of a cell. Errors in this process are dealt with harshly; normal cells have developed mechanisms to monitor this process carefully and initiate death programs if critical steps are not properly validated when they divide. Cancer cells, however, override these checks and balances, allowing them to survive, proliferate, and invade normal tissues. Although a certain level of Polo-like kinase 1 activity is essential for normal cellular division, exceedingly high levels of this enzyme are commonly found in many cancer cells, including those from the lung, colon, and esophagus, and in certain leukemias. This research proposal seeks to identify the cellular players that assist Polo-like kinase 1 in establishing and maintaining cancerous cells; determining the cellular landscape of these dysregulated enzyme targets will be critical in improving our understanding of how these cancers form, and, ultimately, how they can be treated.