Penn Researchers Receive $7.5 Million Grant Renewal to Study Esophageal Cancer


May 26, 2009

Penn Medicine News Release

Contact:
Karen Kreeger
215-349-5658
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu

PHILADELPHIA - Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine will receive $7.5 million over the next five years from the National Cancer Institute to find new ways to treat esophageal cancer, in addition to traditional chemoradiation. This grant is a renewal of a Program Project funded over the last five years.

"This new award builds upon the multidisciplinary effort conducted by an outstanding team of investigators at Penn and other institutions, and there has been significant progress in this cancer that historically has been very difficult to diagnose and treat,” says Anil K. Rustgi, MD, the T. Grier Miller Professor of Medicine and Genetics and Chief of the Gastroenterology Division, who is the overall Principal Investigator on the grant.

Continued research for esophageal cancer is critical for prolonging patient survival, especially since this type of cancer becomes prevalent in its later stages and patients often have a poor prognosis and reduced response to traditional chemoradiation therapy. This research is a continuation of the group's previous findings, which made substantial progress in deciphering the molecular and cellular biology underlying esophageal cancer, with broad applications to other related cancers in the lung, head/neck and skin.  

One project will focus on the biological roles of oncogenes (EGFR, c-Met) and tumor suppressor genes (p53, p120catenin) in esophageal carcinogenesis, as well as the mechanisms of tumor cell invasion into healthy tissue (Dr. Rustgi). Other projects will deal with how blood vessels and fibroblasts interact to make the internal environment permissive for tumor invasion (Dr. Meenhard Herlyn, Wistar Institute), and how the protein cyclin D1 is regulated in the nucleus and in the cytoplasm (Dr. J. Alan Diehl, Penn). The projects are unified further by core facilities (Morphology: Dr. Jonathan Katz; Molecular Biology/Gene Expression: Dr. Gary Wu; and Biostatistics: Dr. Phyllis Gimotty). Collaborators at other institutions include Dr. Matthew Meyerson of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Broad Institute, Boston, on functional genomics, and Dr. Umar Mahmood of Massachusetts General Hospital on tissue imaging. Data generated from these projects will be used to develop new therapeutic drugs and treatments for prolonging patient survival.  

This release can be found at: http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2009/05/esophageal-cancer-research.html

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Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to the National Institutes of Health, received over $366 million in NIH grants (excluding contracts) in the 2008 fiscal year. Supporting 1,700 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

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