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Dr. Deliang Cao, Ph.D. (right)
Daotai Nie, Ph.D. (left)
Dr. Elizabeth Peralta (left)
Sophia Ran, Ph.D.
Dr. Laura Rogers (right)
Kounosuke Watabe, Ph.D. (right)

October 29, 2009

$6.9 Million in Research at SIU Cancer Institute Targets Breast Cancer

The researchers at SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute (SCCI) at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield have generated awards of grants totaling $6,946,964 for breast cancer research in the past three years.  SCCI physicians and researchers are exploring therapies that are geared both toward cancer prevention and to treatments.

Dr. Deliang Cao, Ph.D., an associate professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology at SIU and a SCCI member, has a three-year grant from the U. S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, funded by the U.S. Army. The total budget for the grant is $547,000.  The study focuses on a specific protein to examine whether it could be an initial indicator of breast cancer.  Results may lead to the development of a new prevention option or treatment for the disease.

Daotai Nie, Ph.D., associate professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology at SIU and a member of SCCI, has a three-year grant from the U.S. Army totaling $433,409.  This study could lead to the development of methods to inhibit the metastasis of breast cancer, the spread of cancer cells from the initial site of the disease to another part of the body.  It is looking at whether the thromboxane A2 receptor is activated when breast cancer cells migrate and whether this can be blocked by inhibiting this receptor’s activity.

Dr. Elizabeth Peralta, associate professor of general surgery, treats breast cancer as well as gastrointestinal tumors and melanoma at SCCI.  She is the principal investigator on a pilot project involving ginseng, funded by a SIU internal grant known as an Excellence in Academic Medicine award, with a budget of $50,000.  Initial data in an ongoing clinical trial involving a special formulation of American ginseng (not the dietary supplement sold in stores) indicates that further study of ginseng for breast cancer treatment is warranted.  Patients participating are referred to the clinical trial by their physicians using strict eligibility guidelines.

Sophia Ran, Ph.D., associate professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology at SIU and a SCCI researcher, has received $69,303 to evaluate the effectiveness of Abraxane, a chemotherapeutic drug, in combination with Avastin (suppressor of tumor blood vessels), for treatment of metastatic breast cancer, in aggressive models of breast cancer.

Dr. Laura Rogers, associate professor of internal medicine at SIU and a member of SCCI, has been awarded a five-year federal grant from the National Cancer Institute for the study of exercise and breast cancer.  Total budget for the grant is $3,581,688.  The study will test how well exercise improves physical activity behavior in breast cancer survivors after a three-month program.  It also will examine whether the exercise program improves physical fitness, quality of life, fatigue and joint dysfunction.  Rogers is working with five SIU collaborators and researchers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Kounosuke Watabe, Ph.D., professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology and a SCCI member, has two five-year grants from the National Institute of Health underway, to study the genes, NDRG-1 and KAI-1, that suppresses metastasis of breast and prostate cancers.  The combined total budget is $2,049,136.  The two genes prevent tumor cells from spreading to other organs in the body.  When the function of these genes is lost in cancer patients, the cancer is allowed to spread.  The study is exploring how and why the genes become unable to suppress cancer metastases in advanced cancer patients.  The research also is examining ways to make a drug that mimics the genes and perhaps prevent the spread of cancer.  Watabe is working with two SIU collaborators and researchers at Iwate Medical School in Japan.

Watabe also has received two new grants this year from the U.S. Department of Defense.  One is to study tumor-initiating cells in metastatic breast cancer.  The second focuses on identifying new markers at the early stage of breast cancer.  The total budget for both is $216,428.

The mission of the SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute at SIU is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer care needs through medical education, biomedical research and patient service.  Its main phone number is 217-545-6000 and its Web site is