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First round of Upstate Cancer Center Pilot grants announced

First round of Upstate Cancer Center Pilot grants announced

SYRACUSE, N.Y. Three research studies looking into pancreatic cancer, novel tumor markers and nanocarriers to treat melanoma and cancers of the brain are the first studies to receive the Upstate Cancer Center Pilot grants. The grant funding is provided through the Upstate Foundation’s Cancer Center Annual Fund and its Michael Connolly Endowment for Lung Cancer Research.

“The Foundation is pleased to be able to offer these grant opportunities and be part of groundbreaking studies,” said Eileen Pezzi, vice president for development at Upstate. “Many of our donors are highly supportive of Upstate’s research initiatives. We look forward to sharing the results with them and our entire community.”

Winners of the $50,00 grants and their projects are:

Hong Lu, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology, and Savio John, MD, assistant professor of medicine, for “Alterations of key tumor-suppressors in liver/pancreatic cancer and pre-cancerous liver tissues.”

Junto Luo, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology, and Walter Hall, MD, professor of neurosurgery, for “Development of a novel nanocarrier for co-delivery in IL2 and MAPK inhibitors to improve the treatment of melanoma and its brain metastasis.”

Saeed Sheikh, PhD, professor of pharmacology, and Steve Landas, MD, professor of pathology, for “Characterization of a novel tumor marker and target of cancer therapy.”

The goal of the Cancer Center Pilot Grant is to stimulate collaborative translational cancer research projects between basic and clinical faculty on novel ideas to generate preliminary data for grant funding from external sources.

“A main focus of these grants is bringing together the scientist and the physician as a way to sharpen the focus on discoveries that go from bench to bedside,” said David Amberg, PhD, vice president for research. “These grants also help to jump start work on research that will garner external funding support in the coming years.”

Jeffrey Bogart, MD, interim director of the Upstate Cancer Center and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, said the research is an important element of the cancer center.  “In addition to patient care, education and outreach, research is an important part of what the Upstate Cancer Center does,” he said. “Today’s research on new cancer therapies or research that provides us with a greater understanding of cancer, will affect how we treat patients tomorrow.”

Members of the faculty committee reviewing Cancer Center Pilot grants applications are Ajeet Gajra, MD, associate professor of medicine; Leslie Kohman, MD, Distinguished Service Professor; Leszek Kotula, PhD, MD, associate professor of urology; Stewart Loh, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Mariano Viapiano, PhD, professor of neuroscience and physiology; and Richard Wojcikiewicz, PhD, interim chair and professor of pharmacology.

Another round of Upstate Cancer Center Pilot grants will be awarded next year.