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OU awarded $10M grant for cancer research


OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma hospital has received what they said is one of the largest grants ever in our state.

The five-year grant will focus on battling resistance in cancer treatments, specifically how to overcome that resistance.

A crowd gathered for the big announcement at the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center Wednesday morning.

OU President David Boren addressed the crowd, announcing a $10 million grant has been awarded the hospital in the area of cancer research.

Boren said, “It will enhance our cure of the disease and provide us with opportunities to research and combat serious problems in front of us.”

Doctor Franklin Hays will be one of the researchers, serving as a junior investigator along side two others.

His focus, the area of treatment resistance in lung cancer.

Hays said, “To try to develop new therapies and improve current therapies for lung cancers.”

The grant will not only go to lung cancer research but will also focus on cancer in the breast, prostate and brain, focusing mainly the issue of resistance.

Boren said, “The main problem is resistance. Why does our therapy work in some cases and not in others? If we can overcome that question that will be a huge advance for us.”

President Boren and research doctors said it’s a huge step toward saving more lives from cancers. 

Researchers said resistance often happens with chemo and radiation in a patient when the cancer has returned.

By battling the resistance they hope to increase the chance of survival for those whose cancer returns. 

The Stephenson Cancer Center CoBRE grant projects include:

1)   Breast Cancer   

JPI: Anupama Munshi, Ph.D.

Mentor: Lawrence I. Rothblum, Ph.D.

Co-Mentor: Terence Herman, M.D.

Radiation is an important cancer treatment option for many cancers including breast cancer. Therefore, a tumor cell’s sensitivity to radiation is a critical consideration for the control as well as the cure for the disease.  Researchers hope to unravel the underlying mechanisms that control the development of radiation resistance. Their work aims to better understand those mechanisms that may lead to radiation resistance and to find ways to overcome it.

2)   Lung Cancer  

JPI: Franklin A. Hays, Ph.D.

Mentor: Rajagopal Ramesh, Ph.D.

Co-Mentor: Christopher M. West, Ph.D.

This research essentially targets the “transport system” in the body that delivers cancer therapeutics to the cancer cells. It specifically looks at one important type of “transport vehicle” with the hope that a better understanding of its structure and function will lead to better ways to prevent and overcome resistance to chemotherapy.  

 3)   Prostate Cancer

JPI: Sukyung Woo, Ph.D.

Mentor: Chinthalapalli V. Rao, Ph.D.

Co-Mentor: Danny N. Dhanasekaran, Ph.D.

Angiogenesis is the process by which new blood vessels grow from already existing ones. Cancer cells use angiogenesis to grow and spread.  Researchers will evaluate how prostate cancer finds ways around cancer therapies designed to block that growth. Their hope is that through better understanding new treatments can be developed to block all potential paths to cancer growth and regrowth.   

 4)   Brain Cancer  

JPI: Natarajan Aravindan, Ph.D.

Mentor: Joe Z. Zhao, Ph.D.

Co-Mentor: Xin Zhang, Ph.D.

This research focuses on neuroblastoma (NB), the most frequent extra cranial, solid tumor. Survival is only 10% when this cancer comes back and accounts for 15% of all childhood cancer fatalities. Researchers believe some NB cells have found a way to survive radiotherapy and that by using a specific target, they may be able to keep that from happening.  It could ultimately lead to new ways to treat NB and prevent its recurrence.