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M. D. Anderson Awarded $10 Million for Chemoprevention Program

M. D. Anderson Awarded $10 Million for Chemoprevention Program
Research to Tackle Leading Cancer Killer in Lab and Clinic
M. D. Anderson News Release 12/10/01

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has been awarded a five-year, $10 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to expand and build upon its comprehensive lung cancer chemoprevention study.

A multidisciplinary team headed by Dr. Waun Ki Hong, head of the Division of Cancer Medicine and chairman of the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, will use the grant to conduct a clinical chemoprevention trial while doing parallel genetic, molecular and pharmacologic studies in the lab. Research gathered from both the clinical and basic research studies will feed each other, enhancing and complementing the knowledge gained from individual projects, said Dr. Hong.

This is the fourth NCI grant that M. D. Anderson and Dr. Hong have received to conduct research in this emerging field.  In 1995, Dr. Hong's multidisciplinary team was awarded $6 million for the first comprehensive lung cancer chemoprevention program and in 1991 and 1996, his group received a total $14 million to study the biology and chemoprevention of head and neck cancer.

"Lung cancer remains a lethal and stubborn disease with tobacco as the leading culprit for this killer," said Dr. Hong. "Though we have seen some improvement in treatment for lung cancer in the last decade, there has been little impact on survival, and people continue to smoke. We certainly applaud those who quit smoking, but the risk for lung cancer remains great. This is where chemoprevention may come in: as a strategy for heading off the disease in those at greatest risk."

With this grant, the multidisciplinary program will study the interactions between tobacco carcinogens and chemopreventive agents, the potential of the Cox-2 inhibitor drug, Celecoxib, for lung cancer chemoprevention and intermediate markers of lung carcinogenesis.

One of the studies includes a clinical trial of current and former smokers taking Celecoxib, a drug often prescribed for the treatment of osteoarthritis, but recently found effective in reducing colorectal polyps in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis. The trial, led by Dr. Jonathon Kurie, seeks to determine if the drug is an effective and safe agent for reversing lung damage caused by smoking.

Since 1995, M. D. Anderson has conducted chemoprevention trials with former smokers. One third of the former smokers took a combination of 13-cis retinoic acid, a synthetic vitamin A analogue, and alpha-Tocopherol, a synthetic form of vitamin E. The other one third of patients received 9-cis retinoic acid and the remaining third, a placebo. Final results of the study are still being gathered.

"The trial with 13-cis retinoic acid reinforces why we need to do a multidisciplinary study," said Dr. Hong. "We want to find the 'tamoxifen' for lung cancer, but we also want to better understand how these agents react in the body on the most basic cellular levels."

Other projects funded by the grant will examine the molecular mechanisms of the Cox ­ 2 enzyme and why some compounds are effective for some patients and not for others. Other studies will examine molecular and cellular changes in lung tissue and mechanisms that stimulate cell proliferation. The studies will be conducted by Drs. Reuben Lotan, Li Mao, Bharat B. Aggarwal, Robert Newman, Adel El-Naggar, J. Jack Lee and Walter Hittelman.

According to Dr. Hong, the $10 million grant allows the comprehensive lung cancer chemoprevention program to continue its work and transition into research areas where new discoveries have been made. M. D. Anderson researchers have made many significant chemoprevention findings as a result of research funded by the 1995 grant.

Key discoveries made in the last five years include the first molecular evidence that former smokers are still at high risk for developing lung cancer, the relationship of a synthetic retinoid (Fenretinide) significantly reducing the activity of telomerase -- an enzyme vital to the development and growth of cancer -- in heavy smokers, and the identification of a possible biomarker for tracking the effectiveness of chemoprevention strategies.

"This grant is a tremendous validation of the research Dr. Hong and his team have conducted over the last decade and the studies they will be conducting in the years to come," said Dr. John Mendelsohn, president of M. D. Anderson. "This collaborative team is a microcosm of M. D. Anderson's translational research program, providing patients the opportunity to benefit from the most current findings coming out of the laboratory."

M. D. Anderson has been a leader in chemoprevention since the early 1990s, when Dr. Hong was the first to demonstrate that retinoids can reverse oral leukoplakia, a premalignant condition that often leads to cancer, and that 13-cis retinoic acid can prevent secondary primary tumors among patients with head and neck cancers. M. D. Anderson and other institutions across the nation are conducting chemoprevention trials for cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, head and neck, bladder and cervix.

During 2000, M. D. Anderson received 181 NCI grants, including a five-year, $9.2 million grant for targeted anti-angiogenesis.  Also this year, M. D. Anderson received the NCI's first Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant for bladder cancer research for $13.9 million and a $13 million SPORE grant for prostate cancer research.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center