2010 American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grants

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

Project: "New Technology and Participatory Action to Support Cancer Prevention in Local Communities"

Principal Investigator: Anna M. Adachi-Mejia, PhD
Cancer Type: Various
ACS Award (Special Interest Award): $30,000

Project Summary: The proposed work addresses cancer prevention across the lifespan in two major areas: physical activity and fruit/vegetable consumption. Increasing physical activity and fruit/vegetable consumption comprise two key cancer prevention goals noted by the American Cancer Society9 and the National Cancer Institute. As noted by the American Cancer Society, one-third of cancer-related deaths are due to lack of physical activity and to poor diet.

Healthy lifestyles characterized by regular physical activity and adequate fruit/vegetable consumption can prevent several types of cancer. Increasing physical activity can help prevent cancers of the colon/rectum, breast, and endometrium. Increasing intake of fruit and/or vegetables can help prevent cancers of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and lung. Obesity prevention, which is related to both physical activity and diet, can help prevent cancers of the breast, esophagus, pancreas, colon/rectum, endometrium, kidney, and gallbladder.

Project: "Tissue Oxygen Profiling and Interventions to Improve Wound Healing in Irradiated Tissues"

Principal Investigator: Eunice Y. Chen, MD, PhD
Cancer Type: Head and Neck
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: Radiation therapy is a critical component of curative cancer treatments, but radiation can result in normal tissue complications acutely in days after treatment as well as in years after treatment. With 9.8 million cancer survivors in the United States, the importance of understanding and minimizing treatment-related side effects has emerged as a priority. Late effects of radiation therapy on skin and soft tissue include fibrosis, osteonecrosis, muscle atrophy, and wound healing problems, especially in cancer patients who need surgical intervention after radiotherapy. Head and neck cancer patients are treated with multimodal therapies and are therefore at high risk for radiation-induced complications. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) is a technology developed at Dartmouth which allows repeatable non-invasive measurements of oxygen levels in tissues. We hypothesize that tissue hypoxia resulting from radiation treatment plays a role in induction of hypoxia-inducible pathways that lead to poor wound healing and tissue fibrosis. Through a better understanding of the oxygen dynamics involved in the development of radiation-induced tissue injury and fibrosis, this animal study will identify optimal timing and duration of hyperbaric oxygen treatments to combat tissue hypoxia, which potentially can prevent or minimize radiation-induced fibrosis and wound complications in cancer survivors.

Project: "Targeting the Stress Response in NF1-Associated Malignancies"

Principal Investigator: Chengkai Dai, PhD
Cancer Type: Peripheral Nerves, Sarcomas
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: Neurofibromatosis Type I (NF1) is a very common genetic disorder, occurring in about 1 in 4,000 live births in the United States. Children with NF1 are predisposed to the development of multiple types of malignancies, particularly the nervous system. Currently, there is no cure for this disease. The proposed research examines whether the stress response, which normally protects cells from environmental insults, actually supports, and may in fact be required for, cancer growth in human NF1 tumors. As our findings suggest that the stress response likely promotes the transformation process from normal cells to cancer cells in general, this concept may be applied to many other types of human cancers. Ultimately, these pioneering studies may lead to development of the stress response as a universal target for novel treatment methods for human cancers.

Project: "Translational Development of Implantable Resonators for EPR Oximetry of Deep Tumors and Tissues in a Large Animal Model"

Principal Investigator: Lesley A. Jarvis, MD, PhD
Cancer Type: Brain, Head and Neck
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: Tumor hypoxia (low oxygen levels in tumors) predicts poor prognosis in many cancers types and treatments, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, are often less effective in hypoxic tumors. In order to optimize therapies, we are developing technology to monitor tumor oxygen levels on a daily basis. The long term goal of this work is to provide an understanding of the short and long term variations in tumor oxygen levels and to allow us to deliver cancer therapy to optimally oxygenated tumors. Our technology provides an innovative solution to a crucial clinical need that has previously been unmet: to be able to measure oxygen in tumors and surrounding tissues directly and repeatedly.

Project: "Defining the Epigenetic Landscape in Hormone-Dependent Cancers"

Principal Investigator: Mathieu Lupien, PhD
Cancer Type: Breast, Prostate
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: While genetic mutations or alterations have long been acknowledged for their role in cancer development, the role for changes to the chromatin structure imposed by epigenetic modifications is increasingly being acknowledged. Indeed, the development of cancers, including hormone-dependent cancers, has clearly been associated with changes in the genome-wide distribution of epigenetic modifications. Enzymes responsible for these epigenetic modifications, known as chromatin modifiers, typically lack a DNA recognition domain. Hence how these get recruited to specific genomic regions is unknown. Recently, non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) were show to be required for the epigenetic modifications found at specific genomic locations. With a focus on breast and prostate cancers, our research intends to define how ncRNAs contribute to the recruitment of chromatin modifiers to specific target regions in the genome. By completing this research, we will reveal a novel pathway based on ncRNAs for the development of alternative therapeutic strategies against breast and prostate cancers. In addition, considering the limited knowledge on the function of ncRNA in cancer, this research will promote a new field of research bound to be of significant impact in the fight against breast and prostate cancers.