2011 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 – a follow-up study"

Principal Investigator: Anna M. Adachi-Mejia, PhD
Cancer Type: Various
ACS Award (Special Interest Award): $36,225

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: "Epigenetic alterations in breast cancer progression"

Principal Investigator: Brock C. Christensen, PhD
Cancer Type: Breast
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: This project will compare the molecular (epigenetic) profile of pre-invasive breast cancers between women who later progressed to invasive breast cancer and those who did not over the same follow up period. Our objective is to identify differences between these pre-invasive cancers that can potentially inform women of their probability of later developing an invasive breast tumor. Further, we will compare molecular (epigenetic) profiles of pre-invasive breast cancer to the risk factor history of women with disease to identify whether certain risk factors such as age, family history of disease, or body mass index may be more tightly related to molecular alterations in these cancers. radiation-induced fibrosis and wound complications in cancer survivors.

Project: "Designing an Inhibitor of Colon-Cancer Inducer LPA2"

Principal Investigator: Gevorg Grigoryan, PhD
Cancer Type: Colon
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: Proteins are among the most important molecular players in the cell. Interactions between protein molecules encode correct cellular behavior, whereas disease states such as cancer are often associated with incorrect or aberrant interactions. Inhibiting the incorrect interactions has been seen as a promising way of treating cancer. However, because of the exceedingly large numbers of protein interactions in the cell, and because many of them occur in similar fashions, creating therapeutics that are selective for targeting just the needed interactions without altering any others is a formidable challenge. This is illustrated by a recent discovery of a pair of protein interactions involved in the development of colon cancer. The effects of these two interactions on cancer are opposing – one promotes the cancerous state while the other inhibits it. Interestingly, on the molecular level, these two interactions look very similar, making it nontrivial to disrupt one without altering the other. However, because the two interactions are nevertheless somewhat different, using cutting-edge structural modeling techniques it may be possible to engineer a novel molecule that disrupts one of these interactions, but not the other. Here we propose to do so, leveraging our lab’s extensive expertise in such problems and relying on the techniques we have developed. We believe this will lay the groundwork for a promising therapeutic strategy against colon cancer.

Project: "Dietary Fat and Tumor Biology of Liposarcoma"

Principal Investigator: Nancy B. Kuemmerle, D.O., Ph.D
Cancer Type: Various
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: Liposarcomas are devastating tumors arising from fat tissue for which there are limited therapeutic options except successful surgery. We find that liposarcomas are very dependent upon fat to fuel their growth. Fatty acids are also a major component of tumor cell membranes. There are two ways liposarcomas can obtain the fats they need: they can use their cellular synthetic machinery to make them; or they can break down lipid particles from the diet. The fatty acids the tumors synthesize are fully saturated, and synthesis thus contributes saturated fatty acids to the cell membranes. Lipids obtained from dietary fats may be unsaturated or partially saturated, and they may thus contribute unsaturated fatty acids to cell membranes. Cell membranes are the sites of important activities such as growth signaling and importing a variety of important molecules. Membrane properties, such as the degree of saturation of constituent fatty acids, can affect signaling and transport. Dependence on fatty acids renders liposarcomas vulnerable to a very specific type of control: if fatty acid synthesis and/or uptake of fats from the diet can be interrupted, the tumors would not be able to grow, and growth of liposarcomas could be inhibited. This work will provide the foundation for development of novel agents which can target the metabolic requirements of liposarcomas.

Project: "Health Related Quality of Life in Lung, Colorectal, Breast and Prostate Cancer Patients"

Principal Investigator: Samir Soneji, PhD
Cancer Type: Breast, Prostate, Lung and Colon
ACS Award: $3,775

Project Summary: In 2010, over 792 thousand men and women were diagnosed with lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer in the United States.  Those diagnosed with early and even intermediate stage cancers may expect to live many years with effective and timely treatment and surveillance. Over the last thirty years, therapeutic and surgical advancements have extended survival.  Less is known about the quality of life after a diagnosis of cancer and whether that quality of life varies by cancer type, cancer stage, age group, sex, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.   Also unknown is whether medical advancements that extend life are years spent in relatively good health or poor health. In this study, we specifically study patterns of healthy life, free from physical or mental limitations, after a diagnosis of lung, breast, prostate, or colorectal cancer.  To answer this question, we study linked data from a population-based cancer registry and Medicare health outcomes survey.   We hypothesize the decline in health-related quality of life, both physical and psychosocial, may decline fastest for those in the least advantaged population subgroups.   Some cancer patients may also face a double burden of physical and mental health limitations.

Project: "Unique STAT5 microRNA Targets in Acute Myeloid Leukemia – Competitive Renewal"

Principal Investigator: Pradeep Sathyanarayana, PhD (Maine Medical Center Research Institute – Partner Organization for ACS-IRG)
Cancer Type: Breast
ACS Award: $30,000

Project Summary: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer that starts inside bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells. This cancer grows from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells. Accumulation of several genetic changes or mutations in the cell that leads to the overexpression or under-expression of key regulatory proteins drives this pathological process. Once hidden in the ‘dark genomic matter’, microRNAs are emerging as important factors in the pathophysiology of cancer, including leukemias. A detailed understanding of microRNAs role in leukemia needs to be established in order to fully explore their therapeutic utility. In this proposed grant application, I will investigate the therapeutic potential of a microRNA that we recently discovered to be highly elevated in bone marrow cells of AML. The successful completion of the proposed investigations will provide new and important insights leading to the development of novel microRNA based treatments for AML patients.