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University of Iowa News

Sept. 14, 2006

UI Cancer And Aging Program Funds Pilot Projects

The University of Iowa Cancer and Aging Program (CAP) has awarded a total of $233,158 in one-year grants to support seven pilot research projects on cancer in the elderly. The CAP Research Development Funding Initiative awards were effective Sept. 1.

CAP is a joint initiative of the UI Center on Aging and the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI, with the goal of expanding research in the areas of aging and cancer. The program is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging.

The awards, which emphasize translational and clinical research, were made to seven principal investigators in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. Five of the awards were new, and two were renewals.

The following five new CAP Projects were funded for one year:

Leigh Beglinger, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, will lead a study exploring the levels of chemical in the brain (measured with an MRI scan) during delirium in older cancer patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation. It is hoped that this study will provide information about the mechanism of delirium in cancer patients.

Kevin Glenn, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, will lead an investigation on the role of certain proteins in melanoma and aging. These proteins, from a family of proteins known as ubiquitin ligases, are involved in the recycling of used proteins. Increased inefficiency in the cells' recycling machinery may play a factor in aging and cancer.

Gloria Lee, Ph.D., associate professor of internal medicine, will examine an abnormal protein that is found in two age-related diseases: prostate cancer and Alzheimer's disease. In Alzheimer's disease, abnormal tau has been hypothesized to kill brain cells by activating mechanisms that lead the cells to divide, which, for brain cells, is lethal. Lee's team will investigate the possible role of abnormal tau in the cell cycle mechanisms of prostate cancer cells.

Annette Schlueter, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, will study how dendritic cells from older individuals undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation increase the incidence and severity of graft-versus-host disease. This common complication limits the benefit older individuals receive from potentially life-saving transplants. Dendritic cells are responsible for initiating immune responses. The study also will investigate ways to use certain types of dendritic cells to prevent or treat graft-versus-host disease.

Susan K. Schultz, M.D., professor of psychiatry, will lead a study focused on cognitive outcomes and markers of neurodegeneration in elderly cancer survivors. This project will assess women in late-life who have survived breast cancer and received chemotherapy ten or more years ago. The study seeks to understand the long-term effects of chemotherapy on brain function and brain imaging measures.

The following two CAP projects were each renewed for one additional year:

Frederick Domann, Ph.D., professor of radiation oncology, will study factors regulating expression of a gene associated with Alzheimer's disease to provide insight into age-related dementia and squamous cell cancers of the skin and the head and neck region.

Al Klingelhutz, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology, will examine the role of telomere shortening in aging and cancer. Telomeres are long stretches of non-coding DNA at the ends of chromosomes and ensure normal replication and stability. Telomeres gradually shorten as cells divide, and this is believed to lead to aging and unstable chromosomes, which are ultimately associated with the development of cancer.

The principal investigator for the grant that funds CAP is Robert Wallace, M.D., professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health and director of the UI Center on Aging.

The UI Center on Aging fosters and supports interdisciplinary research, education and service throughout the campus and state to improve understanding of the aging process and the health and well-being of older people. For more information, visit www.centeronaging.uiowa.edu. For further information about the CAP, the Research Development Funding Initiative or the Population-Based Cancer Treatment and Outcome Databases Core, visit www.cancerandaging.uiowa.edu.

The 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. Visit the center online at www.uihealthcare.com/cancer.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660 becky-soglin@uiowa.edu

PROGRAM CONTACT: Victoria Struzynski Olson, program coordinator, Cancer and Aging Program, 319-384-4566, cancer-and-aging@uiowa.edu

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