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Release: Dec. 4, 2001

UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center investigators receive ACS seed grants

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Four researchers with the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa have received American Cancer Society (ACS) "seed" grants. The one-year awards were effective Dec. 1.

ACS seed grants are made to junior faculty members and independent research scientists to help initiate their careers in cancer research and to provide these promising young investigators with funds to explore new ideas related to the causes, prevention and treatment of cancer. The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center.

Robert Cornell, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology, received $19,889 for his project, "Identifying the Genes that Regulate Melanocyte Development through Analysis of Zebrafish Mutants Deficient in Embryonic Melanocytes." This study will use zebrafish to explore the normal developmental events that are disrupted in melanoma and other genetic disorders of melanocytes, which are pigmented skin cells. "Using model organisms to identify candidate genes for human disease has proven incredibly powerful because regulatory genes are largely the same across the animal kingdom," Cornell said.

Lucy Hynds Karnell, Ph.D., UI associate research scientist in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery, received $15,976 for research into "Patterns and Risk Factors of Persistent Depressive Symptomatolgy in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer." The study will examine the pattern of persistent, versus short-term, depressive symptoms and associated risk factors to develop an effective method for diagnosing and treating this psychiatric problem. "Patients with head and neck cancer are quite vulnerable to depression, which can influence how well they do physically and emotionally following treatment," Karnell said.

Yi Luo, M.D., Ph.D., UI associate research scientist in urology, received $20,000 for investigating "Immunotherapy of Murine Bladder Cancer by Phage Peptide Targeted Delivery of Th1 Cytokines (IL-2 and IL-12) and the B7 Co-Stimulator." This project proposes to develop a new immunotherapy for bladder cancer by creating biologicals that specifically target tumors, Yi said.

Immunotherapy is an attempt to treat a disease by inducing a favorable response from the body's natural immune system.

Stefan Strack, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of pharmacology, received $20,000 for a study on "Protein Phosphatase 2A Regulation of Ras-MAP Kinase Signaling." This project addresses how cancer cells respond to (or ignore) signals that regulate growth, Strack said. "Specifically, we will explore the role of certain enzymes, called protein phosphatases, as guardians against unrestrained growth," he added.

George Weiner, M.D., director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and C.E. Block Professor of Cancer Research and Internal Medicine, said the center was "extremely pleased to be able to support such a wide variety of outstanding young cancer researchers."

"This year's awardees come from four different departments and are doing work that extends from molecular causes of cancer through evaluation of the psychosocial effects of cancer. They represent the depth and breath of cancer research taking place at our cancer center," Weiner said.

The American Cancer Society (ACS), based in Atlanta, has state divisions and more than 3,400 local offices. Visit ACS online at http://www.cancer.org/.

NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers like the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI 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 cancer center online at http://www.uihealthcare.com/depts/cancercenter.

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. Visit UI Health Care online at http://www.uihealthcare.com/.