Roswell Park Earns More than $2.5 Million for Research Projects

Collaboration with organizations in Ghana, Nigeria one of 15 projects nationwide awarded specialized NCI funding
Friday, June 20, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Over the last three months, faculty members at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) have earned more than $2.5 million in contract and grant funding from public and private organizations. That total includes a contract for nearly $200,000 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to initiate partnerships with Noguchi Memorial Institute in Ghana and Lagos State University in Nigeria. RPCI was one of only 15 institutions awarded these specialized NCI contracts, created to stimulate cancer research and expand the reach of cancer centers in low- and mid-income countries.

That contract for $199,982 will see Alex Adjei, MD, PhD, FACP, Senior Vice President of Clinical Research and the Katherine Anne Gioia Chair of Medicine, and Chukwumere Nwogu, MD, PhD, FACS, Attending Surgeon in the Department of Thoracic Surgery, heading an initiative to build a well-trained group of clinicians and researchers in those West African countries to collaborate with basic and population-science investigations in cervical, prostate and breast cancer. West Africans and African-Americans in the United States show similar epidemiological trends with regard to breast and prostate cancers, creating clinical research opportunities to enhance drug development and novel therapeutics. The collaboration aims to improve cancer care in Ghana and Nigeria and serve as a paradigm for other developing countries.

In all, RPCI faculty members have recently received a total of $2.57 million in contracts and grants, including six projects awarded NCI funding. Other recipients and funded projects:

Sarah Holstein, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, received a four-year, $985,707 award from the NCI to develop new drugs to use against multiple myeloma, by targeting a key process, Rab geranylgeranylation, within myeloma cells.

Carl Morrison, MD, DVM, Executive Director, Center for Personalized Medicine, and Director, Division of Molecular Pathology, received a five-year subcontract award of approximately $561,580 from the University of Pittsburgh for an NCI project to establish the TIES Cancer Research Network (TCRN) at RPCI. The endeavor is part of multi-institutional information-technology solution to connect electronic records and tissue banks at four institutions, increase access to tissues at local biorepositories, and foster collaborations across biorepositories.

Joseph Spernyak, PhD, Imaging Research Scientist, received a two-year award of $182,018 from the NCI to develop next-generation magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents to track temperature-sensitive drug carriers engineered to release anticancer drugs locally to tumors.

Shahriar Koochekpour, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Cancer Genetics, departments of Urology and Oncology, received a two-year, $406,247 award from the NCI to investigate how prostate cancer aggressiveness and metastasis in black men may correlate to glutamate (an amino acid) receptor levels. Data from the study may prove useful in distinguishing between aggressive and nonaggressive prostate cancers, and help guide treatment decisions.

Peter Demant, MD, PhD, Distinguished Member, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, received a two-year, $177,740 award from the NCI for work that seeks to identify the specific genes in individual patients that determine whether they’re likely to suffer toxic effects from cisplatin therapy, a group of drugs used against childhood cancers and cancers of the breast and ovary. His work will help physicians personalize treatment choices for individual patients so that a drug’s toxic effects don’t weaken the benefit for the patient.

Gokul M. Das, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and Co-Director, RPCI Breast Disease Site Research Group, received a one-year grant of $50,000 from the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester for a project that focuses on triple-negative breast cancer. His team will investigate the role of a tumor-suppressor protein called p53 in this highly aggressive and treatment-resistant breast cancer.

Jason Eng, a graduate student working toward a doctorate in the Department of Immunology at RPCI, received a one-year, $2,500 Seed Grant Research Award from the American Medical Association Foundation to explore how physical and emotional stresses might increase the recurrence and spread of pancreatic cancer. The findings from this project may lead to new treatment strategies involving relatively safe and already widely used anti-anxiety or anti-hypertensive medications.


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, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

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Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager