RPCI Researchers Share In NIH Program Of Excellence Award In Glycosciences

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

BUFFALO, NY —The laboratory of Joseph Lau, PhD, Associate Member of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), will share in a seven-year, $17.6 million Programs of Excellence Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of only five Programs of Excellence in Glycosciences (PEG) awards nationwide, the grant will support the team’s investigations in glycobiology, the study of the role sugars play in biologic processes.

More than $4.5 million has been allocated to RPCI for this work. Dr. Lau’s team will collaborate with lead researcher Robert Sackstein, MD, PhD, as well as Karin Hoffmeister, MD, both of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Vernon Reinhold, PhD, of the University of New Hampshire.

Looking at both healthy and pathologic cells, the researchers seek to define how sugar modifications regulate the production of blood cells. By characterizing these mechanisms, they hope to develop insights on how sugar structures might be modified for therapeutic effect — for example, as treatment for leukemia and other blood cancers, or to improve outcomes in bone-marrow transplantation.

Dr. Lau’s team is comprised of three researchers who will contribute expertise in the following areas:

Michael Nemeth, PhD, Assistant Member, Department of Medicine — blood stem cells

Khushi Matta, PhD, Member, Department of Cancer Biology — sugar chemistry

Song Liu, PhD, Assistant Member, Department of Biostatisticsbiostatistical data analysis

Also contributing to the effort will be Sriram Neelamegham, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University at Buffalo, who will generate a computer model.

The PEG award will also support training of investigators and provide core resources to help these centers and other research institutions in the northeastern US to accelerate breakthroughs in glycobiology-based diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.

“This much-needed funding will help us generate momentum in this very promising but also highly neglected area of research,” said Dr. Lau, who is also a member of RPCI’s Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapeutics Program. “It’s alarming how little attention has been paid to the connections between sugars and pathology, given the substantial role these structures play in human biology.”

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was 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 RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

Media Contact: 

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