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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 14, 2005

Photos: James Howe, left; Thomas Casavant, right

Howe, Casavant To Lead Cancer Genetics Research Program

Two University of Iowa faculty members recently were named to lead a genetics research program in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

James Howe, M.D., professor of surgery in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and Thomas Casavant, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, were appointed co-leaders of the Holden Cancer Center's Cancer Genetics and Computational Biology Program.

Understanding the genetic basis of normal and abnormal cellular processes is key to preventing and treating all forms of cancer. Investigators in the Cancer Genetics and Computational Biology Program work to uncover genetic events involved in normal and malignant cell growth, differentiation and death, and to investigate how such events affect cell behavior. The program's ultimate goal is to develop new strategies for cancer prevention and therapy based on this information.

Howe will serve on an interim basis, and the Holden Cancer Center will conduct a national search for his replacement. Plans also are being developed to recruit additional cancer geneticists to the program.

A UI faculty member since 1996, Howe's research interests include cancer genetics and diseases that cause cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. He led the UI research team that identified the two genes that causes juvenile polyposis, a condition where patients develop polyps in the gastrointestinal tract and colon, putting them at increased risk for colorectal and stomach cancer. Howe attended medical school at the University of Vermont and served a residency in surgery at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, followed by a fellowship in surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Casavant's research interests include computational molecular biology, genetics, genomics, and high-performance networking and computing. As director of the College of Engineering's Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, he brings together researchers from across campus to help medical researchers investigate the genetic basis for cancer, age-related macular degeneration and other diseases. Casavant has been a faculty member since 1989, when he came to Iowa from the School of Electrical Engineering at Purdue University. He earned his bachelor's degree in computer science from the UI and his master's degree and doctorate from the UI College of Engineering.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers 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.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032, david-pedersen@uiowa.edu.