During a membership event April 29, the Cincinnati Cancer Center awarded over $200,000 in pilot grants to members and basic scientists who are collaborating to find out more about various cancers with hopes of generating more data and additional funding.
Three teams received Affinity Group Awards to encourage multidisciplinary research efforts and link CCC programs.CCC members David Hui, PhD, professor in the department of pathology and
laboratory medicine, Anja Jaeschke, PhD, assistant professor in the department
of pathology and laboratory medicine, and Carol Mercer, PhD, assistant research
professor in the department of internal medicine, division of hematology
oncology, who are also all members of the UC Cancer Institute, have been
putting their heads together for years to collaborate on projects looking at
the effect of obesity on cancer development.
Now, the $60,000
affinity grant will allow them to begin a new project studying the role of the
protein sortilin as an alternative LDL-receptor in liver cancer (hepatocellular
"Sortilin is thought
to be an alternative LDL cholesterol-receptor—LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol
often linked with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity,” says Hui. "We
think sortilin might assist in helping plasma LDL and other cholesterol-rich
lipoproteins enter the system which might be responsible for the increased
absorption of these cholesterol-rich lipoproteins into the liver that increases
cell production and cancer growth.
"Cholesterol has been
shown to influence the progression of breast and colorectal cancers so sortilin
might have a broader effect than just liver cancer.”
He says that statin
treatment, which is often prescribed for high cholesterol, correlates with
reduced risk of liver cancer, but the mechanism that is causing this result is
portion of patients do not benefit from statin treatment because of intolerance
or resistance, so a better understanding of the mechanism regulating the
pathogenesis of this cancer is needed to develop alternative treatment
strategies,” Hui continues.
It’s the combined
expertise of the three—Hui studies the link between cardiovascular disease,
diabetes and obesity with cholesterol metabolism; Jaeschke primarily studies
fatty liver disease and its connection to cancer; and Mercer has a clinical
background in hematology oncology and studies cell signaling pathways important
for growth and proliferation—that makes this project a promising step in
finding new therapies for liver cancer.
"This project fits in
perfectly with the center’s cancer and metabolism initiative, which is a major
research strength at UC,” Hui says.
"This is truly
translational science,” says Mercer, who adds that in addition to animal
models, they will be using banked human cancer tissue to conduct this research.
"Obesity is a major problem in western society, and this project is very
relevant for the public health problems we are currently facing.
"With the challenge
of finding funding to support research like this, these pilot grants are needed
now more than ever before, and we are grateful to have been selected.”
The University of
Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and UC Health have
created the Cincinnati Cancer Center—a joint effort designed to leverage the
strengths of all three organizations in order to provide the best possible
cancer diagnostics, research, treatment, and care for individuals in the
Tristate region and the nation. To learn more, visit cincinnaticancercenter.org.