Rutgers Cancer Institute researchers awarded $2.3 million in American Cancer Society grants

More than $2.3 million in Research Scholar Grants from the American Cancer Society have been awarded to three Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey researchers to examine cell metabolism and tumor formation in forms of breast cancer, lung cancer and leukemia.

Grants of $792,000 each have been awarded to the following researchers, who are also faculty members at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School:

Michael L. Gatza, PhD – (133887-RSG-19-160-01-TBE) Dr. Gatza's work will focus on triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease, which accounts for one in four breast cancer-related deaths each year in the United States and disproportionately affects younger women and African American women. The goal of this research is to identify alterations in genetic signaling pathways that are commonly present in triple-negative breast cancer in order to understand the genetic alterations responsible for tumor development and growth. Through genomic, proteomic and bioinformatics analyses of human tumors in conjunction with laboratory models, Gatza and his team will identify the mechanism by which the BRG1 and SOX4 genes promote tumor formation and progression. The aim is to provide a foundation for personalized therapeutic strategies.

Yanxiang Jessie Guo, PhD – (134036-RSG-19-165-01-TBG) Dr. Guo will explore the underlying mechanism of a cellular energy process known as autophagy and its impact on the treatment of KRAS-mutant non-small cell lung cancer. Autophagy is required to maintain cellular metabolism, which may cause KRAS-mutant lung cancer to be resistant to chemotherapy or immunotherapy. If autophagy is blocked, anti-cancer therapies may be more effective. The aim of this project is to provide data that would lead to the development of novel therapeutic combinations that would improve treatment efficacy. Previous work by Guo and colleagues that supports this project was funded through an American Cancer Society Early Investigator Pilot Award.

Daniel Herranz Benito, PhD – (133916-RSG-19-161-01-TBE) Dr. Herranz will examine the regulation and influence of the Sirt1 gene, which responsible for the regulation of both cellular metabolism and gene expression, on T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). T-ALL is a rare and aggressive blood cancer that impacts both children and adults. It results in high relapse rates, which are not curable with current therapies. In this project, using a new genetically engineered mouse model developed by Herranz and colleagues, they will be able to genetically inactivate Sirt1 in a controlled manner and examine treatment effects, the results of which could lead to novel therapeutic strategies for this patient population.

"These grants will enhance our understanding of some of the critical mechanisms behind tumor formation, offering a foundation for the development of future therapies," notes Eileen White, PhD, deputy director, chief scientific officer and associate director for basic research at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

The award period begins January 1.

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