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Research at SIU School of Medicine

Grant supports DNA analysis research to personalize cancer treatments

Physicians at Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU School of Medicine have received $58,900 in grant funding to study “personalized” treatment for cancer patients using the patient’s DNA.

Dr. AlaneeDr. Shaheen Alanee, head of urologic oncology, said the cancers targeted in the study are bladder, ovarian and fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer.

The research, made possible through a grant from Memorial Medical Center Foundation and targeted to begin in April, will cover patients who were or who will be treated with a specific platinum-based chemotherapy regimen. Platinum-based chemotherapy drugs are the most powerful and commonly used drugs against cancer. A patient’s DNA would be collected and examined to identify genetic determinants of response to chemotherapy treatment.

Dr. Alanee said it is important to study both current and past patients to evaluate their treatment and how they responded to it. Patients treated previously would still provide data needed for the study.

“This information will help oncologists determine whether a patient will respond better to platinum-based chemotherapy or if surgery or other chemotherapy regimens are better options,” Dr. Alanee said.

“Tailoring or personalizing a patient’s treatment based on their own DNA gives the patient the best possible advantage to survive many years,” Dr. Alanee said. Dr. Alanee also worked on this research as part of a urologic oncology clinical fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

NIH grant to study technique to diagnose gynecological cancer

Dr. BrardDr. Laurent Brard, PhD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, has been awarded a two-year, $147,500 federal grant from the National Institutes of Health to study a diagnostic technique for gynecological cancer.

The study will investigate a new technique for diagnosing gynecologic cancer in patients who are unable to go through surgery. Fluid will be withdrawn from a patient’s pelvic area and examined under a microscope for cancer cells. Tumor markers, which are specific proteins found in urine, blood or fluid that indicate the presence of cancer, will be measured. If cancer is found, the patient can then be treated with chemotherapy.

Dr. Brard’s research has focused on gynecological cancer for more than 10 years.

Can stem cells in fat affect breast tumor growth?

Dr. Cochran Dr. Abigail Cochran, a fourth-year plastic surgery resident physician is studying fat grafting in breast cancer treatment and reconstruction.

The two-year federal grant from the Plastic Surgery Foundation has a budget of $47,223.

Fat grafting is an integral part of breast reconstruction in cancer patients, but there is concern about the cancer-stimulation potential of stem cells in fat. This research examines stem cells in fat to provide a better understanding of their effects on tumor growth.

The research uses human fat extracted during liposuction, which is taken to the lab and cultured with human breast cancer cells. Researchers will measure the tumor growth to determine how the fat affects the cancer cells. The fat also is genetically engineered with a virus that attacks cancer cells to decrease the tumor. Results of the study will help improve understanding of the risks associated with fat grafting for cancer patients.

This is the third national grant awarded for Dr. Cochran’s research, which is focused on stem cell transplantation in breast cancer reconstruction.

Dr. Cochran began her residency at SIU in 2010. She earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee (2010) and her bachelor’s degree from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y. (2005).

The mission of SIU School of Medicine is to assist the citizens of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health-care needs through education, patient care, research and service to the community.

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