CONTACT: ARIANNE NARDO
8788 John Pappajohn Pavilion
Iowa City IA 52242
Release: June 19, 2000
UI medical student receives American Cancer Society award for cancer research
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Cancer Center has selected its
recipient for the 1999-2000 American Cancer Society Student Stipend award,
an honor given annually to an outstanding UI student in a medical, dental
or health professional degree program to pursue a career in cancer research.
Aaron Holley, a fourth-year medical student in the UI College of Medicine
and a Cedar Rapids native, will receive the $2,500 stipend and work with mentor
Timothy Ratliff, Ph.D.,
UI professor of urology and Anderson-Hebbelin Professor in Prostate Cancer
Holley's project will apply the principles of gene therapy to determine
its effectiveness against prostate cancer cells in a laboratory experiment.
The incidence of prostate cancer is increasing, Holley said, and despite efforts
to detect the disease early, treatment still is a challenge.
Traditionally, surgery, radiation therapy and hormone therapy have been
used to treat prostate cancer, but UI Cancer Center researchers have been
pursuing gene therapy as another course of treatment. Gene therapy involves
using a vector, often a disabled cold virus, as a vehicle to supply cells
with healthy copies of flawed DNA. Once the cell has been altered, the DNA
must be expressed by the tumor cell in order for the therapy to have an effect.
"Gene therapy is about changing the nature of tumor cells," Holley
said. "By changing their make-up it might be possible to stimulate one's
own immune system to kill these tumor cells, or to trigger the cells to die
on their own."
One of the difficulties researchers face with gene therapy is getting the
cells to express certain new characteristics, Holley said. In his project,
Holley will use Gelfoam, a gel used to aid blood clotting in patients, in
conjunction with gene therapy to increase cell expression.
Gelfoam acts like a sponge, preventing a virus from leaking out. It is understood
that Gelfoam both activates platelets and stimulates a normal inflammatory
reaction. The aim of Holley's research is to determine which one of these
activities is responsible for successfully increasing cell expression.
"Gelfoam might be used in gene therapy for prostate cancer," Holley
said. "My hope is that data from this research project may lead to other
advances in gene therapy for prostate cancer, or other areas of gene therapy
Opportunities provided by the UI Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society,
such as the Student Stipend Award, allow students to pursue outside research
endeavors crucial to their development as medical professionals. Holley said
he is grateful for the honor and thankful for guidance from Richard D. Williams,
M.D., UI head of urology and a urologic oncologist at the UI Cancer Center.
Williams is also Rubin H. Flocks Professor of Urology.
The UI Cancer Center advances cancer research and education through the
collaborative efforts of researchers and physicians from 26 departments in
six UI colleges and the UI Hospitals and Clinics. Using knowledge gained through
this research, UI physicians and other health care professionals work together
in the John and Mary Pappajohn Clinical Cancer Center to provide the most
advanced cancer care available in a manner that recognizes each patient as
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the
UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care,
medical education and research programs and services they provide.