Katzen Cancer Research Center Awards Research Funding for Innovative Cancer Research

April 22, 2012

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2012) – How do you impact one of modern medicine’s great challenges?  A total of 1,638,910 new cancer cases and 577,190 deaths from cancer are projected to occur in the United States in 2012. 

The Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Cancer Research Center at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, now in its third year as a cancer research center, has awarded nearly $350,000 through its annual research grants program.  The pilot funding to four researchers focused on cancer biology and therapy explores uncharted territory in cancer research. The goal is to make significant improvements in cancer prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and ultimately lead to a cure. Through collaboration with the Schools and departments at GW, the pilot funding will serve as a catalyst for innovation.

“It is rewarding to support researchers who are finding clues to why cancers present in patients and identify cutting edge therapies for treatment.  We are reaching out for new partners here at GW.  One of the first grants was awarded to an associate professor of Engineering.  We want to partner with The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and use the principles of engineering to fight this disease.  Robotics, computer science, nanobiotechnology, molecular imaging and cold plasma are engineering-based advances that will help us achieve our mission,” said Robert Siegel, M.D., director of Hematology/Oncology at the Medical Faculty Associates, director of the Katzen Cancer Research Center, and professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. 

According to Leo Schargorodski, executive director of the Katzen Cancer Research Center, “We have a vision of funding basic cancer research and translating these discoveries from the research lab to clinical trials.  We can do this all at GW and the MFA.  This is our inaugural year, and we are pleased with the scope and depth of the innovative research.”

Funding was awarded to:

  • Robert Hawley, Ph.D., professor of Anatomy and Regenerative Biology, GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was awarded support for investigating the characterization of tumor-initiating cells in multiple myeloma (MM). This study has great potential significance in understanding the basic biology of MM and its resistance to conventional chemotherapy. If successful, the proposed study would help demonstrate the presence of therapy-resistant tumor cells in MM and add to our understanding of how these cells are propagated and co-exist with bulk tumor cells in MM. These findings could contribute to a new class of anti-MM therapeutic agents.
  • Jason Zara, Ph.D., associate professor of Engineering and Applied Science, GW School of Engineering and Applied Science, was awarded support for investigating concurrent imaging and treatment of epithelial cancers using optical coherence tomography and cold plasmas. This study could help identify better screening techniques for oral cancer. While direct visualization by an experienced physician detects the vast majority of oral cancers, optical coherence tomography (OCT) may increase detection rates, and allow better characterization of lesions. Secondly, treatment of oral lesions with cold plasma is a novel to this field and will examine OCT changes in normal and abnormal cell lines. This modality could innovate therapy for dysplasia before it becomes an invasive neoplasm.
  • Paul Brindley, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine, GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was awarded support for investigating miRNA based circulating biomarkers to detect risk for liver fluke induced cholangiocarcinoma. This research builds on well-established research that focuses on the parasitic work infection that causes liver cancer (CCA) in East Asia. Identifying microRNA markers for early diagnosis will greatly enhance the prognosis and therapy for CCA.
  • Ray-Chang Wu, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biochemistry, GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was awarded support for targeting addition to SRC-3/AIB1 oncogene for cancer therapy. This study will help researchers to better understand the molecular basis on oncogenic addition mediated by a well know transcriptional co-activator which functions as an oncogene in many cancers.

About the Katzen Cancer Research Center:
The Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Cancer Research Center at The George Washington University was established in 2009 by a generous $10 million dollar charitable contribution from Dr. Cyrus Katzen and his wife, Myrtle. 

The goal of the Katzen Cancer Research Center is to attract outstanding scientists to contribute to the GW cancer research efforts.  With the dedication of the new, state-of-the-art clinical facilities, funded by the donation, the Center is poised to considerably expand its research efforts by adding scientists, clinicians and support staff dedicated to the detection and treatment of patients with cancer, blood disorders and bone marrow disease.  In addition, the Center staff is dedicated to enhancing patient care by developing a comforting environment to facilitate the delivery of care to our patients and to include the ability to participate in new life-saving clinical trials.

The Katzen Center has enabled GW to offer new therapies to more patients, expand the nursing team to attend to the vast needs of their patients and offer patients a relaxing, healing atmosphere as they receive what can be exhausting treatment.  For medical students, the new expanded facilities have provided them with more opportunities to learn about personalized cancer medicine and targeted therapies and get hands-on experience learning about cutting-edge modalities for treating the various types of cancers.