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Yakun Chen, Ph.D. - Portrait
Deliang Cao, Ph.D. - Portrait / Lab
Yin-Yuan Mo, Ph.D. - Portrait / Lab
Sophia Ran, Ph.D. - Portrait / Lab
Kousouke Watabe, Ph.D. - Portrait / Lab

December 16, 2009

SIU Med School Receives $1.1 Million in Federal Cancer Grants

Five basic science researchers at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield have been awarded grants by the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs for various cancer research projects.  The grants total $1,176,529.

“These projects offer new hope for treatment and control for breast, prostate and other cancers and demonstrate that the SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute has become a nationally recognized center for cancer research and innovation,” said Linda A. Toth, Ph.D., SIU’s associate dean for research and faculty affairs and professor of pharmacology.

The SIU faculty members, their funding amounts and research projects are–

• Yakun Chen, Ph.D., research associate in the medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology department, was awarded $85,810 for her project, “Pregnane X Receptor (PXR) as a Determinant of Prostate Tumor Response to Chemotherapy.”  The project will try to determine whether the protein, PXR, increases drug resistance in chemotherapy and search for an inhibitor to prevent this. 

• Dr. Deliang Cao, Ph.D., associate professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology, has received $545,456 for his project, “Aldo-Keto Reductase 1 B10 as a Novel Target for Breast Cancer.”  The project will study the protein ARL-1 in breast cancer at different stages to determine whether it can be used as a biomarker of the disease. 

• Yin-Yuan Mo, Ph.D., associate professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology, was awarded $218,250 for two projects.  The first project, “Identification of MicroRNAs that Regulate Estrogen-Independent Growth Pathways,” will study whether microRNAs play a key role in the regulation of the genes required for estrogen-independent growth, which may cause resistance to tamoxifen, a chemotherapy drug.   Mo’s second project, “Exosome-Mediated MicroRNA Transfer in Breast Cancer Metastasis,” will study whether microDNAs in the blood stream can be transferred into the endothelial cells of blood vessels and whether these cells can elicit inflammatory reactions, causing the cancer to metastasize.

•  Sophia Ran, Ph.D., associate professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology, was awarded $108,881 for her project, “Role of Bone Marrow-Derived Endothelial Cell Progenitors in Vascular Regeneration and Tumor Recurrance after Chemotherapy.”  The project will study how and why mesenchymal stem cells help to regenerate tumor cells after chemotherapy, causing cancer recurrance.  It also will look for a way to prevent the tumor recurrence.  Andrew Wilber, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery, is a co-investigator for the project.

•  Kounosuke Watabe, Ph.D., professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology, has received $218,132 for two projects.  The first project, “Identification of Metastatic Tumor Stem Cell,” will study breast tumor cells to better understand how a small group of tumor cells, also known as tumor stem cells, spread to other organs in the body.  His second project, “DCIS-Specific MicroRNA in Cancer Stem Cell,” will try to identify some specific microRNA (molecule) that play a role in early stage ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer.      

SIU School of Medicine’s mission is to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health needs through education, patient care, research and community service.  SIU’s research efforts cover a wide range of basic and clinical sciences.  Currently more than 210 research projects funded by outside organizations, primarily federal agencies, are underway in 100-plus laboratories.  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.

For information, call SIU’s main number, 217-545-8000, or go online, www.siumed.edu.

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