Latest Grant Awards Bring More Than $6 Million to Roswell Park Research Projects

Investigations into treatment resistance, disease progression and prostate cancer disparities receive important funding
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Highlights: 
Eight Roswell Park researchers attract awards totaling more than $6.4 million
Funders include NCI, DoD, state Department of Health and Komen Foundation
Biggest award, for more than $2 million, supports colorectal cancer research

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute have garnered $6.4 million in new grant funding to support important investigations, including an award of more than $2 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to Yuesheng Zhang, MD, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, for his research to improve colorectal cancer treatment. Dr. Zhang’s five-year investigation aims to evaluate the ability of a recombinant human protein to overcome resistance to the cancer drug cetuximab, a common problem in the treatment of colorectal cancer.

“With limited research dollars available, this more than $5.3 million federal investment in promising investigations by local researchers represents a confidence in the work happening right here at Roswell Park,” says Congressman Brian Higgins. “The research into prostate, lymphoma, colorectal & breast cancer moves us forward on the path to new clues, better treatment and continued hope for those fighting this challenging disease.”

Dr. Sharon Evans of the Roswell Park Department of Immunology, recipient of a recent NYSDOH grant.

Recent awards also include a two-year, $360,000 Peter T. Rowley Breast Cancer Project grant to Sharon Evans, PhD, Professor of Oncology and Immunology in the Department of Immunology, funded by the New York State Department of Health to investigate mechanisms that lead to immunotherapy treatment failure in aggressive breast cancer. Current immunotherapy regimens depend on an army of T lymphocytes to destroy tumor targets. Dr. Evans’ work aims to determine the role other immune cells — specifically, myeloid-derived suppressor cells — play in preventing T lymphocyte access to the tumor, contributing to poor response to treatment during cancer immunotherapy.

“Cancer immunotherapy is an important new approach to treatment that holds great potential for individuals battling cancer,” says Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “As part of Governor Cuomo’s multifaceted efforts to fight breast cancer, the Department of Health is proud to support this research which adds yet another method to achieving New York State’s objective to detect and ultimately defeat the disease. Dr. Evans’ work will provide valuable information to help us better understand and enhance our ability to treat aggressive breast cancer.”

Other recent grants from government agencies and private foundations to Roswell Park researchers are outlined below.

Xinjiang Wang, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, received a new five-year, $1.9 million grant from the NCI for his investigation into how a newly identified small-molecule inhibitor, MMRi36, can target MDM2-MDM4 E3 ligase in the treatment of drug-resistant lymphoma.

Anna Woloszynska-Read, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, received a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for her investigation into genetic and epigenetic tumor alterations in African-American men diagnosed with early-onset prostate cancer. Her work aims to understand why African-Americans, more than any other racial or ethnic group, are diagnosed with prostate cancer more frequently, at an earlier age, with larger tumors and with more aggressive disease, and are more likely to die from the disease.

Kazuaki Takabe, MD, PhD, FACS, Chief of Breast Surgery and Alfiero Foundation Endowed Chair in Breast Oncology, received a one-year, $295,970 grant from the NCI for research on the signaling lipid sphingosine-1 phosphate in breast cancer progression and lymphangiogenesis. Dr. Takabe also received a one-year, $164,485 grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation for his investigation into the role of the tumor and/or host sphingosine-1 phosphate in the generation of new blood vessels and new lymph vessels in cancer metastasis.

Renuka Iyer, MD, Professor of Oncology and Co-Director of the Liver and Pancreas Tumor Center, received a five-year, $205,455 subcontract award from Case Western Reserve University, part of a larger NCI grant to test novel PET probes for imaging liver cancer proliferation.

James Mohler, MD, Associate Director and Senior Vice President for Translational Research and Chair of the Department of Urology, received a five-year, $138,725 subcontract award from Vanderbilt University, part of a larger grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, for research into the reasons many men who are treated for enlarged prostate respond poorly to Proscar (finasteride) or Avodart (dutasteride). This project aims to predict which patients will fail treatment in order to spare them unnecessary medication and determine better options. Dr. Mohler’s contribution includes measuring prostate testosterone levels and providing antibodies against the medications’ enzyme targets.

Dean Tang, PhD, Chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, received a 15-month, $92,433 grant from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation to test several novel strategies against prostate cancer that focus on androgen receptor-negative cancer cells, which may represent a critical source of therapy resistance and tumor relapse.

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The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-866-559-4838) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org. Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

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