Stephanie Correa, Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

Tamoxifen is an extremely effective drug for patients with estrogen sensitive breast cancer but it comes with a variety of side effects, including hot flashes. We use mice to test if symptoms similar to hot flashes are mediated by the effects of tamoxifen on the brain. We study a region of the brain that is very sensitive to estrogen and controls body temperature. We have identified differences in this region that are associated with changes in body temperature during tamoxifen treatment. Our immediate goal is to test if we can use this knowledge to block temperature changes in mice receiving tamoxifen. Our hope is that these studies could one day help us reduce hot flashes and improve the lives of breast cancer patients and survivors.

Francine Garrett-Bakelman, M.D., Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is the most common acute leukemia in adults. The majority of patients diagnosed are over the age of sixty and individuals in this age range experience poor response to treatment and worse clinical outcomes compared to younger patients. Despite advances in the field, clinical outcomes for AML patients over the age of sixty remain poor. To improve upon current treatment options for AML patients over the age of sixty, it is essential to better understand the mechanisms that drive the disease in these patients. The project proposed utilized data generated from AML patients older than 60 to identify RBM47 as a potential biomarker and driver of the disease. We will utilize data from another set of patients to confirm the association between the level of RBM47 in AML cells and clinical outcomes in these patients. Furthermore, in order to identify how RBM47 may contribute to the disease, we will determine what aspect(s) of AML biology RBM47 may regulate. Collectively, these findings will contribute to a body of knowledge for a long-term goal of identifying potential targetable mechanisms of disease that could be used to develop new and more effective treatments for AML patients over the age of sixty.

Yong Zhang, Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

Cancer cells contain a set of highly active proteins. They can add small groups to a series of target proteins. These uncommon additions are often linked with tumors found in breast, liver, and other tissues. To date, it is still unclear how those aberrant additions cause cancer. To answer this question, it is crucial to know all the interaction targets for the additions in cancer cells. But no method has been made available to resolve this key issueIn this project we are aimed to create an innovative platform to achieve this goalOur research plan will use chemistry and biotechnology to make new tools for target identification. A particular member in this group will be chosen for this work. Because it shows much higher activities in diverse types of cancerThe full range of interacting targets for this protein will be clearly determinedMoreover, the patterns and levels of such interactions in cancer cells can be precisely measured by our creative approach. These findings will unveil the interaction networks of this cancerous protein to guide our further studies. The fundamental knowledge obtained from this work will advance our understanding of cancerImportantly, it will foster the development of new approaches for cancer detection and treatment. 

Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta, Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive disease. It is the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the USA. Only 8% of patients who can undergo surgery will survive past five years. Late diagnosis and lack of good treatment options are some of the reasons for this outcome. Recent progress in cancer immune therapy showed effect in cancers such as relapsed leukemia and metastatic melanoma. Unfortunately, immune therapy was not effective in patients with pancreatic cancer. One explanation for this result is that pancreatic cancer blocks immune responses against cancer. Thus, understanding how cancer promotes immune suppression is vital to our ability to treat this deadly disease. Our initial work has revealed that B cells promote growth of pancreatic cancer and resistance to immunotherapy. However, it is not clear how B cells promote cancer growth, and how targeting these cells can benefit patients. We propose to understand how B cells function in pancreatic cancer. The goal of this research project is to find new targets that can block immune suppression in pancreatic cancer. Using both mouse models of pancreatic cancer and patient samples, we hope to identify B cell based targets in pancreatic cancer. We ultimately hope to translate our findings into effective therapies that may also work with existing immune therapy treatments.

Aniruddha Deshpande, Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

Cure rates for childhood leukemia have considerably improved in the last few years. Despite this, there are certain sub-sets of leukemia that do not respond well to current therapies. Currently used treatments are often extremely aggressive and non-specific, leading to significant debilitating effects in these patients. The overall objective of this application is to validate exciting new therapeutic targets that we have identified in high-risk subsets of AML using genetic and chemical approaches. 

Zhijie (Jason) Liu, Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

More than 40,000 American women die of breast cancer each year. One out of every eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. In 70% of these women, estrogen and estrogen receptor α (ERα) are key players in breast cancer diseases. Keeping this endocrine signaling function low by endocrine therapy is the best treatment right now. Yet, after 5 years, hormonal treatment stops working in more than 30% of these patients and the disease returns. Because hormone resistance is still a challenge, there are few effective therapies for these patients. We plan to study estrogen and ERα related to hormone resistance.

ERα binds DNA elements that regulate gene expression. These elements are very important in cancer development and progression. When these elements lose control, breast cancer becomes resistant to hormones. Thus, if we can find ways to understand and correct these elements in hormone resistant cells, we can find cures for ERα-positive breast cancers. The goal of this project is to understand how ERα controls DNA elements. We will identify markers to measure the presence and progression of breast cancer. Our research results may lead to new therapies that target this disease. Discoveries from this project may help with treating other cancers and may be useful for other research fields.

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