More than 30 Roswell Park Researchers Present Research at AACR Annual Meeting 2013

Editor's note: Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Chair of Roswell Park's Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, was invited to speak during a symposium on cancer health disparities at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013. Learn more about Dr. Ambrosone's presentation, "Lifestyle factors and risk of aggressive forms of breast cancer among African-American women.” 

BUFFALO, NY — More than 50 faculty and staff members from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (Roswell Park) are taking part in the AACR Annual Meeting 2013, held April 6-10 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., where more than 18,000 attendees are expected to share the latest and most exciting discoveries in cancer research. Among them are more than 30 Roswell Park researchers and clinicians who will update their colleagues on their latest research advances, in areas ranging from targeted therapies and developmental therapeutics to regulatory science.

The Roswell Park Office of Public Affairs has selected the featured abstracts below as noteworthy for the media. Two Roswell Park research teams will present their findings on focal adhesion kinase (FAK), a protein that has emerged as a promising biomarker because it plays a key role in survival of cancer cells; two teams will give presentations on tobacco use and/or cessation; and three teams will share findings related to racial/ethnic disparities in cancer incidence.

Details from highlighted abstracts follow below, with specific presentation times, locations and embargoes noted.


Samantha Sobus, a graduate student in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics, is first author on “Pharmacologic tobacco-cessation agents and response to radiotherapy” (abstract 66), to be presented Sunday, April 7, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Hall A-C, Poster Section 4.

Co-authors are Michelle A. Romano, Janelle Mackowiak and Krista Pundt, of Roswell Park, and Graham W. Warren, MD, of Roswell Park and the Medical University of South Carolina.

“Tobacco use is associated with poor outcomes in cancer patients, and nicotine replacement has been shown to decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in cancer cells,” Sobus says. “We found that the FDA-approved tobacco-cessation pharmacotherapy bupropion (Wellbutrin) does not appear to decrease the effectiveness of radiotherapy in cancer cells. This is the first biologic evidence to suggest that a non-nicotine-based pharmacologic agent may be the optimal treatment strategy for cancer patients who use tobacco, so the potential clinical implications are significant.”

Sobus will also receive an AACR-Millennium Scholar-in-Training Award for this work during the meeting.

Anna Woloszynska-Read, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, is first author on “Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are associated with aggressive prostate cancer among African-Americans in the North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project (PCaP)” (abstract LB-12), to be presented Sunday, April 7, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Hall A-C, Poster Section 47.

Co-authors are James L. Mohler, MD, Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP, and Candace S. Johnson, PhD, of Roswell Park; Lenore Arab, PhD, and John Adams, MD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles; Jeannette T. Bensen, PhD, of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Elizabeth T.H. Fontham, MPH, DrPH, of the School of Public Health, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center; Joseph Su, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute; and Fred Tabung, Hongmei Zhang, PhD, and Susan E. Steck, PhD, MPH, RD, of the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina.

“African-Americans are more prone than Americans of European descent to develop vitamin D deficiency, and there are data indicating that this may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as prostate cancer. Therefore, we measured vitamin D levels in African-American and European-American men with prostate cancer,” says Dr. Woloszynska-Read. “Surprisingly, we found that higher levels of vitamin D correlated with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer among African-American men. This finding has to be further investigated, but in the meantime vitamin D supplementation in African-American men with prostate cancer should be approached with caution.”


Priyanka A. Agharkar, a pre-doctoral trainee in the Department of Cell Stress Biology, is first author on “Novel small-molecule inhibitors C9 and C10 specifically disrupt the FAK-VEGFR3 signaling axis in cancer cells” (abstract 3247), to be presented Tuesday, April 9, from 8 a.m. to noon in Hall A-C, Poster Section 36.

Co-authors are Manivannan Ethirajan, PhD, Jian Liao, Michael Yemma, and Ravindra Pandey, PhD, all of Roswell Park, Andrew Magis of CureFAKtor Pharmaceuticals, LLC, an Roswell Park affiliate, and Elena Kurenova, PhD, and William Cance, MD, FACS, of both Roswell Park and CureFAKtor.

“C9 and C10 are compounds, jointly developed by Roswell Park and CureFAKtor Pharmaceuticals, that specifically target and inhibit the FAK-VEGFR3 signaling network, which is crucial for cancer cell survival and ability to invade healthy tissues,” Agharkar says. “We tested their effectiveness in treating animal models of pancreatic cancer. Results from these preclinical studies were striking, so the possibilities for these drugs to be added to the spectrum of treatment options for pancreatic cancer look promising at this early stage.”

Graham Warren, MD, an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), is first author on “Smoking, cancer treatment, and design of clinical trials” (abstract 2421), to be presented Tuesday, April 9, from 8 a.m. to noon in Hall A-C, Poster Section 3.

Co-authors are James Marshall, PhD, of Roswell Park and K. Michael Cummings, PhD, of MUSC.

“Although we in the cancer treatment world have devoted substantial resources to the development of new drugs and radiologic and surgical devices and technologies, we may have overlooked an important factor in cancer treatment outcome: smoking,” notes Dr. Marshall, Senior Vice President for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences. “Evidence tells us that chemotherapy, surgery and irradiation may impact smokers differently than nonsmokers. Our study suggests that smoking needs to be recorded and measured carefully in every cancer clinical trial.”


Shalana B. O’Brien, MD, a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Surgical Oncology, is first author on “FAK inhibition with small-molecule inhibitor Y15 decreases viability in thyroid-cancer cell lines” (abstract 4096), to be presented Tuesday, April 9, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Hall A-C, Poster Section 27.

Co-authors are Vita M. Golubovskaya, PhD, and William G. Cance, MD, FACS, both of Roswell Park.

“FAK is present at high levels in thyroid tumors, especially those with invasive and metastatic potential,” notes Dr. Cance, the study’s senior author, who is Surgeon-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology. “In this study we show that Y15, a novel FAK inhibitor developed at Roswell Park, has great potency against these cancers. Because this agent appears to suppress the viability of several thyroid cancer cell lines, we’re confident that these findings will be relevant for the many clinical studies we can expect to follow from this research.”

Allyson Young, a Pre-Doctoral Trainee in the Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology, is first author on “Genome-wide methylation patterns suggest differences in breast-cancer biology in American women of African and European ancestry” (abstract 3641), to be presented Tuesday, April 9, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Hall A-C, Poster Section 9.

Co-authors are Christine B. Ambrosone, PhD, Lara Sucheston, PhD, Dan Wang, Li Yan, PhD, Song Liu, PhD, Li Tang, PhD, Carl Morrison, MD, DVM, and Michael J. Higgins, PhD, all of Roswell Park; Jo L. Freudenheim, PhD, of the University at Buffalo; Peter G. Shields, MD, of Georgetown University; Kitaw Demissie, MD, PhD, MPH, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; and Saraswati Sukumar, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University.

“This is the first genome-wide study to examine whether there are biologic differences in tumors between African-American and European-American women,” notes Dr. Ambrosone, Chair of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park. “The findings that methylation patterns are similar for women with less aggressive, estrogen-receptor-positive tumors, but differ more by race in estrogen-receptor-negative tumors, suggest that the causes of these more aggressive tumors may differ between African-American and European-American women. These data will help us better understand the biologic basis of breast cancer disparities, and could lead to new approaches for cancer prevention and targeted therapies.”


The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Roswell Park, 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 Roswell Park’s website at, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email

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