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2008 Partnership News

E-Blast Issue 22 - October 28, 2008

Announcement: UPR PI, Dr. Walter Frontera, appointed to the Institute of Medicine

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Walter Frontera on his recent appointment to the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM announced the names of 65 new members and five foreign associates in conjunction with its 38th meeting. Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Recap: Outreach/Full Project C Meetings held in Puerto Rico Prove Very Successful

Researchers for Outreach and Full Project C (Cancer Risk Reduction Through Combined Treatment for Tobacco and Alcohol Use - CUIDATE) recently met in San Juan on October 2-3, 2008, where they met with their collaborators from the Puerto Rico Department of Health, TeleMedik (the administrator of the Puerto Rico Quitline) and the Puerto Rico Quitline staff, and the Cancer Information Service. The investigators reviewed the Outreach and Cuidate study objectives and procedures with all the various entities.

E-Blast Issue 21 - October 14, 2008

Announcement: An Exciting Conference Slated for November

On November 19-21, 2008, The Nanobiology, Nanomedicine and Innovation for Biotechnology Workshop will be held. This workshop, sponsored by Puerto Rico-EPSCoR Institute for Functional Nanomaterials (IFN), is one outcome of conversations held between the U54 leadership and Drs. Emma Fernandez-Repollet, vice president for research and member of the PR Science, Technology and Research Trust, and Brad Weiner, dean of natural sciences and PI of the Institute for Functional Nanomaterials. The objective of the workshop is to formally initiate the development of a Nanobio/ Nanomedicine Interdisciplinary Research Group within the IFN, to include a strong innovation component.

Recap: Drug Development Conference Held

On September 17-19, 2008, the UPR School of Pharmacy held a conference entitled Drug Discovery, Development and Clinical Research in Academia to further stimulate research in this area in Puerto Rico. This conference was a direct result of U54 involvement in spearheading this initiative, which included several U54 funded researchers as presenters. The 1 ½ day symposium was co-hosted by Dr. Lesbia Hernández, dean, UPR-School of Pharmacy, and Waldemar Priebe, Ph.D., professor, Experimental Therapeutics, MD Anderson. The symposium featured outstanding presenters including Michael J. Balick, Ph.D., from the New York Botanical Garden, and Timothy Madden, Pharm.D., associate professor, MD Anderson. It also featured three very interesting panel discussions, which included representatives from academia, the government and private industry. Local UPR faculty also presented a synthesis of the results of their ongoing research projects.

E-Blast Issue 20 - September 23, 2008

Recap: U54 Summer Student Presentation Activity Held

On August 28, 2008, the "3rd U54 MD Anderson/ UPRCCC Partnership Summer Training Scientific Research Program" was hosted by Dr. Jose Carlo, chancellor, UPR Medical Sciences Campus, and Dr. Walter Frontera, dean of the School of Medicine. Students presented presentations based on their research and training. This summer, 17 UPR students participated in programs held at MD Anderson. Twelve students participated in the Summer Research Program, offered through the MD Anderson School of Health Sciences, and three students participated in the Bioengineering STEP-UP Program, a joint effort between MD Anderson and Rice University directed by Dr. Kathryn E. Peek. These students were sponsored by the U54 Training Program. Additionally, a unique opportunity to bridge UPR and MD Anderson nursing development became available. As a result, two nursing students from the UPR Medical Sciences Campus also participated for the first time in a two-month clinical-academic practice rotation at MD Anderson.

Recap: 1st Joint Symposium on Neuro-Oncology/ Neurosurgery

The first joint symposium on Neuro-Oncology/ Neurosurgery, organized and sponsored by the U54 Training Program, was held on Saturday, August 23, 2008, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This symposium marks the fulfillment of one of the U54 goals to develop departmental collaborations between the two institutions, as well as to offer advanced programs in Puerto Rico on the latest knowledge, techniques in cancer treatment and the hope for better quality of life alternatives for patients. Ninety-four physician specialists and scientists from the fields of neurosurgery, hematology-oncology, neurology, neuro-radiology and neurosciences research attended. This initiative was a direct result of conversations between Dr. Ricardo Brau, professor and chair of neurosurgery, and Dr. Raymond Sawaya, professor and chair of neurosurgery. Symposium presenters included seven distinguished professors from MD Anderson and five from Puerto Rico. A few of the distinguished presenters included Dr. Alfred Yung, professor and chair of neuro-oncology, MD Anderson; Dr. Ashok J. Kumar, chair of the Neuroradiology Section, MD Anderson; Dr. Christina Meyers, professor of neuro-oncology, MD Anderson; and Dr. Luis Almodovar, U54-sponsored alumni and neurosurgeon, Puerto Rico Health Department Medical Center.

Recap: Formal Meetings between the MD Anderson Head & Neck SPORE and U54 Leadership Initiated

On September 5, 2008, Drs. Gabriel López-Berestein (MD Anderson) and Guillermo Tortolero-Luna (UPRCCC) attended a monthly SPORE meeting to further outline ways in which the two programs can interact to spearhead more research project development. Thus far, one outcome of this meeting is for Head and Neck and Dental researchers working in the area of HIV/HPV studies at the UPRCCC to partner with SPORE investigators at MD Anderson. The UPRCCC U54 leadership has been invited to attend the monthly SPORE meetings so we can better design a strategic plan. The MD Anderson Head & Neck SPORE is led by Dr. Scott Lippman, professor and chair, Thoracic/ Head & Neck Medical Oncology.

E-Blast Issue 19 - July 1, 2008

Announcement: Summer Student Party

Mark your calendar for our Annual Summer Student Party on July 25, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. This event will be held at Dr. Gabriel López-Berestein's house. Formal invitations for local guests are forthcoming.

2008 Cancer Health Disparities Summit

As a reminder, this year's Cancer Health Disparities Summit will be held in Bethesda, Maryland, on July 14-16, 2008. In addition to receiving travel awards to attend this year's summit, Drs. Edna Mora, Dipak Banerjee, Bulent Ozpolat, Elba Diaz, Carlos Gonzalez, Marcia Cruz-Correa and Pablo Vivas have also been selected for the following presentations. Please check your agenda to be sure to hear and/or visit these presentations:

  • Poster: Carlos Gonzalez, Ph.D. - The Role of Phosphorylation in the Nonsense-Mediated Decay (NMD) RNA Surveillance Mechanism
  • Poster: Marcia Cruz-Correa, M.D., Ph.D. - Loss of IGF2 Genomic Imprinting and Cancer Risk in an Ethnically Diverse Population
  • Oral: Elba Diaz, DMD - Increasing the Utilization of the Puerto Rico Quitline through Outreach
  • Oral: Bulent Ozpolat, M.D., Ph.D. - Translational Regulation of Myeloid Cell Differentiation: Novel Mechanics and Players - PDCD4, DAP5 and IF2alpha
  • Oral: Pablo Vivas, Ph.D. - Downregulation of the c-MYC Target Gene, Peroxiredoxin III, Contributes to Arsenic Trioxide-Induced Apoptosis in APL
  • Oral: Dipak Banerjee, Ph.D. - A Novel Glycotherapeutic for Curing Breast Cancer
  • Oral: Edna Mora, M.D. - Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK) Mediates Adhesion and Cell Spreading in Bone-Metastatic Breast Carcinoma Cells
  • Oral: Marcia Cruz-Correa, M.D., Ph.D. - Genotype-Phenotype Characterization of Loss of Genomic Imprinting of IGF2- Positive Colorectal Cancer

E-Blast Issue 18 - June 11, 2008

Welcome, Summer Students

This year we had an outstanding pool of applicants for our Summer Student Research Program. Eleven medical students applied and five were accepted. Eleven college students applied and seven were accepted. The college students will be here from June 1-August 1, and the medical students will be here from June 15-August 1. These students will work with their assigned mentors, as well as attend required weekly lectures and seminars.

We also have three students attending the STEP-UP program, a comprehensive summer internship for science, technology and engineering students, held at Rice University. Please be on the lookout for these students in labs near you!

2008 Cancer Health Disparities Summit

Drs. Edna Mora, Dipak Banerjee, Bulent Ozpolat, Elba Diaz, Carlos Gonzalez and Pablo Vivas received travel awards to attend this year's Cancer Health Disparities Summit held in Bethesda, Maryland, on July 14-16, 2008. Drs. Gabriel López-Berestein and Reynold López-Enriquez will also be attending on behalf of the U54 Partnership.

Sanya Springfield, Peter Ogunbiyi and Nelson Aguila from the NCI visited the University of Puerto Rico Cancer Center March 25-26, 2008. This two-day meeting held promising discussions on cancer-related initiatives, recruitment updates and strategies in support of health sciences, research and technology in Puerto Rico. A tour of the facilities and construction sites was also held.

Dr. Rene Nieves-Alicea Selected as 2008 AACR Minority Scholar

Congratulations to Dr. Rene Nieves, postdoctoral fellow in experimental therapeutics at MD Anderson, on being selected as a 2008 AACR Minority Scholar. Prior to his fellowship training, Dr. Nieves worked as a research associate at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus and as an assistant professor for the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey. He was also an associate professor for the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico. His plans are to return to Puerto Rico upon completion of his training.

E-Blast Issue 17 - May 22, 2008

MD Anderson Funded Co-Leaders Participate in Graduate Student Committees

In the upcoming months, several U54 MD Anderson faculty will travel to the University of Puerto Rico to attend graduate student oral examinations and thesis and dissertation defenses, in addition to meeting with their project counterparts:

  • Dr. Miles Wilkinson, professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, attended Ivan Cajigas' dissertation defense on "The Nonsense-mediated mRNA Decay Pathway: Its Regulation and Interplay with mRNA Export and mRNA Translation". Ivan is in an intercampus Ph.D. Biology Program (UPR-Rio Piedras and UPR-Medical Sciences Campus). His advisor is Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, the current partner of Dr. Wilkinson.
  • Dr. Robert Newman, professor, Experimental Therapeutics, will attend Lynette Bueno Perez's thesis defense entitled "Exploratory study of an endemic plant of Puerto Rico, Goetzea elegans Wydler, Solanaceae". Lynette's advisor is Dr. Mikhail Antoun, professor, School of Pharmacy, UPR-Rio Piedras. Upon completion of her degree, Lynette will have an M.S. in pharmaceutical sciences, and she will pursue her Ph.D. studies at Ohio State University.
  • Dr. Jim Klostergaard, professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncology, attended Kenia Parga Rivera's oral examination and research proposal presentation on "Synthesis of MRI Contrast Agents Targeted to Ovarian Cancer Cells". Kenia is currently in the Ph.D. chemistry program at UPR-Rio Piedras. Her advisor is Dr. Raphael Raptis, the current partner of Dr. Klostergaard.

E-Blast Issue 16 - May 7, 2008

Dr. Bulent Ozpolat Receives Two Grants: Susan Komen Award and Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Bulent Ozpolat, instructor in experimental therapeutics and funded investigator on Full Project C, on his Susan Komen Award for his application "Targeting Death Pathways by Tumor-Targeting siRNA-Nanovectors as Novel Molecular Therapy for Primary and Metastatic Breast Cancer." Funding will be for three years. Dr. Ozpolat also received a Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program Grant for the development of tumor-targeted nanoparticles for the treatment of ovarian cancer this month.

GSBS Trainee Wilfredo Cosme-Blanco, Receives Ph.D. in May 2008

Wilfredo Cosme-Blanco defended his thesis "Role of Telomere Dysfunction, DNA Damage Response and p53 Mutations in Tumorgenesis and Aging" on April 1, 2008. During his training in the Genes and Development GSBS Program, Dr. Sandy Chang, associate professor of cancer genetics and U54 Training Internal Advisory Committee member, served as his mentor. After graduation, Wilfredo plans to stay in the lab for one more year while applying to medical school. His future plans are to return to work in Puerto Rico. He is an author on five manuscripts. During training, Wilfredo received three fellowships:

  • MARC Program Fellowship (2001-2003 undergraduate)
  • Molecular Genetics Pre-doctoral Fellowship (2004)
  • NIH NRSA Fellowship for Minority Students (2004-2008)

E-Blast Issue 15 - April 16, 2008

NCI Site Visit at the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center Successful

Drs. John Niederhuber, Robert Croyle, Linda Weiss, Sanya Springfield, Peter Ogunbiyi and Nelson Aguila from the NCI visited the University of Puerto Rico Cancer Center March 25-26, 2008. This two-day meeting held promising discussions on cancer-related initiatives, recruitment updates and strategies in support of health sciences, research and technology in Puerto Rico. A tour of the facilities and construction sites was also held.

Dr. Rene Nieves-Alicea Selected as 2008 AACR Minority Scholar

Congratulations to Dr. Rene Nieves, postdoctoral fellow in experimental therapeutics at MD Anderson, on being selected as a 2008 AACR Minority Scholar. Prior to his fellowship training, Dr. Nieves worked as a research associate at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus and as an assistant professor for the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey. He was also an associate professor for the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico. His plans are to return to Puerto Rico upon completion of his training.


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