Author: Elizabeth Allen | Category: Around Campus | May 21, 2015
Dr. Tim Huang, Dr. Rong Li, and Dr. Bruce Nicholson were awarded more than $3 million in grants to work on projects to prevent cancer in South Texas.
not surprised but I’m delighted,” said Cancer Treatment & Research Center (CTRC) Director Dr. Ian M. Thompson Jr.
“These grants demonstrate the breadth and depth of our researchers’ talents at
Core facility grant for single cancer cell
analysis: Tim Huang, Ph.D., professor and chairman of molecular medicine at the
Health Science Center and deputy director of the CTRC, $3.3 million
The CTRC already has the foundations of an important core facility
doing single-cell analysis, Dr. Huang said, and this grant will allow the CTRC
to acquire key pieces that will complete the services offered by the core
facility. Those services include isolating and studying single cancer cells from
urine and saliva to develop non-invasive methods for detecting cancer.
will give cancer researchers from throughout the region and beyond access to
the latest analytical tools operated by a highly qualified technical team,” he
said, “helping them to develop new ways to diagnose, monitor and treat cancer.”
Turning on the prevention switch for
colon cancer: Rong Li, Ph.D., professor of molecular medicine at the UT Health Science Center,
An estrogen receptor, ER
beta, appears to have an antitumor effect on the development of colon cancer.
Dr. Li’s team has been studying ER beta’s activity in breast cancer and have
discovered a molecular switch in ER-beta that can turn on its antitumor
activity in breast cancer. What they need to know is whether the same switch is
also operational for controlling the antitumor activity of ER beta in colon
cancer, and if so, whether turning on this switch can prevent colon
“If our theory is correct, then we can approach this in several
ways. We can use small molecule compounds being developed in other projects to
turn the switch on,” Dr. Li said. “If so, there is the potential to develop a
drug that could target colon cancer in the early stages – when the switch is
still functional – to move it to the ‘on’ position.”
Harnessing the body’s defenses: Bruce Nicholson, Ph.D., professor and chair of biochemistry in the School of Medicine at the UT
Health Science Center, $200,000
cancer can be treated while it’s still in the breast, but its recurrence,
sometimes years later, in other parts of the body is the cause of most
mortality from this deadly disease. What the team led by Dr. Nicholson wants to
know is how the body keeps the cancer in check for that long — and if that
remission can be extended.
trying to tap the body’s own defenses to prevent recurrence,” Dr. Nicholson
work examines how microRNAs are transferred from healthy bone cells
(osteocytes) to metastasized breast cancer cells, suppressing their
growth. It appears that this function works for a while, Dr. Nicholson said,
but when it stops working is when the cancer recurs, this time in bones or
“If we can understand this process and then prolong the time over
which it continues,” he said, “we may be able to extend lifespan of many
Another special congratulations to Dr. Barbara J. Turner, professor
of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and
director of the Center for Research to Advance Community Health (ReACH) who was also awarded $1.5 million for liver cancer prevention targeting Hepatitis C infections.
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