Roswell Park Draws More Than $6.8 Million for Research on New Treatments and Supportive-Care Approaches

Awards support development of novel targeted agent, understanding immune system’s role in cancer
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Highlights: 
Seven Roswell Park researchers garner grants totaling more than $6.8 million
Largest award, for $3.6 million, focuses on pediatric caregivers
Projects involve malignant melanoma and breast, prostate and ovarian cancers
Sandra Gollnick, PhD, Director of the Photodynamic Therapy Center at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute recently received more than $6.8 million in grant awards to support six specific projects aimed at improving supportive care and developing new immunotherapy and targeted therapy treatment approaches. The largest individual award, a $3.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), was awarded to Elizabeth Gage-Bouchard, MA, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control. This prestigious “R01” research project grant, first announced by Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, funds a five-year investigation into how a family’s social network influences parents’ ability to cope with their child’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. Parents of children with cancer face significant risk for anxiety, depression, distress and post-traumatic stress disorder during and after their child’s treatment.

“We’re looking at how assistance from friends and family members helps parents manage a child’s cancer diagnosis, and what types of support help them the most,” says Dr. Gage-Bouchard. “The type of help they get from their networks and social contacts can shape their ability to be a caregiver. We want to look at what works so we can help other parents to manage these challenges as effectively as possible.”

Another grant also funds research into how outside factors may impact cancer patients. James Mohler, MD, Associate Director and Senior Vice President of Translational Research, received a three-year, $590,506 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for his investigation into whether financial distress causes patients with prostate cancer to alter or delay treatment that may compromise survival. The project aims to assess whether this effect differs among men by race and/or socioeconomic status.

Other recent grantees and their projects:

Jianmin Zhang, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Genetics and Genomics, received $2 million from the NCI for a five-year R01 project exploring an underlying mechanism of how breast cancers begin and progress, focusing on the role of a protein known as TAZ in regulating and suppressing breast cancer stem cells.

Mikhail Nikiforov, PhD, Professor of Oncology and Member of the Department of Cell Stress Biology, received $417,840 from the NCI for a three-year project to develop a new anticancer drug for malignant melanoma, one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, that target the oncoprotein MYC. Both this award and the NCI award to Dr. Zhang, mentioned above, were first announced by Rep. Brian Higgins.

Joseph Barbi, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Immunology, received two recent grants to support his research into a newly identified molecule called neuritin and how it may suppress the immune system, allowing cancer to develop and grow. Dr. Barbi received a two-year career development award of $100,000 from The Melanoma Research Foundation to explore how targeting neuritin may improve anti-melanoma immunotherapy. He also received a one-year, $54,125 grant from the Phi Beta Psi sorority supporting his studies of how neuritin affects the immune response to ovarian tumors.

Elizabeth Repasky, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Immunology, received a one-year, $50,000 grant from The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester for her research designed to identify mechanisms by which chronic stress can lead to diminished immune protection against breast cancer tumors and metastasis.

Another recent grant, awarded to Sandra Gollnick, PhD, Director of the Photodynamic Therapy Center, Member of the Department of Cell Stress Biology and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Immunology, will enable the creation of an international registry compiling information about patients’ responses to photodynamic therapy (PDT), an approach developed at Roswell Park that is now used in the treatment of many lung, esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic, and mesothelioma tumors. This work, funded by a grant for an undisclosed sum from Concordia Laboratories, will support the development of a searchable, open-access repository for reporting PDT treatment outcomes— the first resource of its kind.

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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.

Media Contact: 

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org