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Research Highlights

August 2015

Seed Funding Research Program Grant Awards

We congratulate the two investigators who received awards this round.

The tenth round of Duncan Family Institute Seed Funding Research Program awards have been completed. These awards will provide funding up to $50,000 per year for two years for a total of $100,000 to support research in the broad topic of cancer prevention and risk assessment in order to allow faculty to obtain preliminary data to improve competitiveness of cancer prevention and risk assessment research grant proposals submitted to external agencies.

Jessica Hwang, M.D., M.P.H.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated second malignancies in patients who receive allogeneic stem cell transplantation

 

Ju-Seog Lee, Ph.D.
Non-invasive biomarkers for prevention of liver cancer in high risk patients

 

Human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated second malignancies in patients who receive allogeneic stem cell transplantation

Patients with cancer may harbor asymptomatic, but cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Stem cell transplantation increases the risk of HPV-associated second malignancies such as oropharyngeal, cervical, and anal cancer; survivors of allogeneic stem cell transplantation are especially at risk and need intensive HPV screening and management strategies to prevent HPV-associated second cancers. This proposal will determine the incidence and predictors of HPV-associated second malignancies after allogeneic stem cell transplantation and establish the prevalence of high-risk HPV types among survivors. Data from this proposal will be used to determine the utilization of HPV vaccines to prevent HPV-associated second malignancies in all allogeneic stem cell transplantation survivors.

Non-invasive biomarkers for prevention of liver cancer in high risk patients

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is accountable for an estimated 600,000 world-wide deaths annually and its incidence rates in USA have been doubled over the past 25 years (35,660 estimated new cases in 2015), and are expected to double over the next 10 to 20 years. Surgical resection is major curative treatment of patients with HCC. However, the long-term results of such curative therapies are far from satisfactory, because of the high rate of intrahepatic recurrence.  In previous study, we identified unique gene expression signature that can identify high risk patients developing new HCC after treatment. However, liver biopsy, that is necessary for generation of gene expression data, is costly and frequently discouraged due to risk and potential complication during biopsy. In proposed study, we will screen candidate plasma markers to identify markers that are most significantly associated with high risk of HCC development and validate identified markers in independent cohorts of patients. Identified markers will significantly improve the management of patients with HCC.

November 2014

Seed Funding Research Program Grant Awards

We congratulate the three investigators who received awards this round.

The ninth round of Duncan Family Institute Seed Funding Research Program awards have been completed. These awards will provide funding up to $50,000 per year for two years for a total of $100,000 to support research in the broad topic of cancer prevention and risk assessment in order to allow faculty to obtain preliminary data to improve competitiveness of cancer prevention and risk assessment research grant proposals submitted to external agencies.

Petra den Hollander, Ph.D.
PTP4A3 is critical for the early progression of triple-negative breast cancer

 

Scott Kopetz, M.D., Ph.D.
Preclinical Studies of a Novel Safer Aspirin for Colorectal Cancer Prevention

 

Lorna McNeill, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Food Deserts in Houston? Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption to Reduce Cancer Risk

 

PTP4A3 is critical for the early progression of triple-negative breast cancer

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) (between 15-20% of all breast cancers) affects young women and is more aggressive and deadly than ER-positive breast cancer. Selective agents currently used for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer are very effective in ER-positive breast cancer, but these agents are not effective in TNBC.  For this large group of women, there is a critical need to develop new and more targeted therapies. To develop targeted therapies for TNBC, we need to identify what ‘drives’ this cancer, and what alterations these ‘drivers’ induce in the cancer cells. With the proposed studies we will identify the role of the signaling protein PTP4A3 in the development and progression of TNBC, and identify altered pathways and interacting proteins of PTP4A3. These findings will enable us to develop targeted, effective treatments for women at high risk for TNBC and women diagnosed with the disease.

Preclinical Studies of a Novel Safer Aspirin for Colorectal Cancer Prevention

In the US, more than 130,000 individuals will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC) and more than 50,000 will die from this disease in 2014. It is estimated that regular aspirin use has the potential to reduce the new cases of CRC by approximately 20% and reduce death from this disease by 35%. However, a safer aspirin is needed, as the risks associated with regular aspirin use currently outweigh the benefits. A new, safer aspirin was recently approved by the FDA, but has not yet been tested for CRC prevention. Our project will test this new, safer aspirin for use as a CRC prevention agent in animal models. If this new aspirin is effective and safer in animal models, then we will have the evidence and rationale to begin a clinical trial in humans. If the new aspirin is not effective in animal models, or not safer, then we will know not to pursue this drug for CRC prevention in humans. Broader use of a safer aspirin for CRC prevention has the potential to greatly reduce the burden of this disease.

Food Deserts in Houston? Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption to Reduce Cancer Risk

Obesity continues to be highly prevalent in the African American (AA) population, affecting nearly 40% of AA men and a staggering 59% of AA women. Unfortunately this trend is also present in AA children and adolescents, resulting in AA children to likely face a lifelong struggle with obesity and increased cancer risk. Called "food deserts," areas without access to healthy food options have been shown to be more prevalent in African American neighborhoods and are associated with obesity. The proposed study aims to use a community-based approach to expand the Project CHURCH partnership to engage faith-based communities, the Houston Food Bank, the Brighter Bites program, and MD Anderson Cancer Center in utilizing churches as an effective food co-op concept to provide consistent access to fresh fruits and vegetables using low-cost strategies combined with nutrition education to low-income African American children and their families, thereby addressing cancer-related  health disparities among African Americans in Houston.

Mentored Junior Faculty Fellowship

Applications are being accepted for the Duncan Family Institute Mentored Junior Faculty Fellowship in Cancer Prevention Research. 

Read more.

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