CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Wizdom Powell Hammond, PhD, is profiled in UNC Chapel Hill's "Meet a Tar Heel" portfolio. All of the profiles in this collection feature people who are a part of Carolina.
Dr. Hammond is an assistant professor of health behavior and health education at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Chapel Hill, NC – New research conducted at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, offers hope for people with a rare disorder called Chuvash polycythemia.
Polycythemia is a disease characterized by excessive production of red blood cells. Symptoms include an enlarged spleen, blood clots, an increased risk of stroke, and in some cases the disease is a precursor to acute leukemia. While 95 percent of polycythemia cases are associated with a mutation in the JAK2 gene, a small number of patients have a mutation in the von Hippel-Lindau gene that produces a protein called pVHL.
“It was thought that these two types of polycythemia would need treatments targeting different biochemical pathways,” says William Kim, MD, one of the study authors and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Kim is an assistant professor of Medicine and Genetics at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“We found that – despite their different origins – both types of disease display activation of JAK2. This is exciting because there are JAK2 inhibitors in late stage clinical trials that look promising for patients with JAK2 mutant polycythemia. Our work in laboratory models shows that inhibition of JAK2 is an effective strategy for both types of the disease. Under normal circumstances, the small number of people with a Chuvash VHL mutation would make this type of polycythemia an orphan disease. There are simply not enough patients to make the development of a targeted treatment worthwhile for pharmaceutical companies,” he added.
The study results were published earlier this week in the journal Nature Medicine.
Kim cautions that, while the JAK2 inhibitors look very promising in laboratory models of Chuvash polycythemia, they have not yet been tested in humans.
Other UNC Lineberger collaborators include Bing Zhou, PhD, and Samuel Heathcote, BS. Scientists from the University of Toronto, University of Pennsylvania, University of California, San Diego, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario also participated in the research.
The research was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Defense. Dr. Kim is a Damon Runyon Merck clinical investigator.
The Lineberger Clinical Fellow Award is being established to recognize UNC cancer trainees’ outstanding accomplishments in both clinical and research endeavors.
Shelley Earp, MD, Lineberger Director said, “The partnership among the School of Medicine departments, UNC Hospitals and the Cancer Center has built superb cancer care, research and training programs. Outstanding fellows have been attracted to Chapel Hill. This new award will recognize yearly several of our outstanding young physician-scientists and encourage their participation in UNC’s broad range of clinical, basic, public health and health services cancer research.”
Higginson is a fourth-year resident in the department of radiation oncology. He is co-principal investigator of a UNC Lineberger clinical trial evaluating radiation-induced changes in retinal oxygenation, after receiving grants from the NCTraCs and the Radiology Society of America to support his work.
McRee is a third-year fellow in the UNC hematology and oncology fellowship program. She was selected by the faculty and fellows as chief fellow, helping to run the program and serving as a liaison between the fellows and the faculty. Her translational research project involves examining the molecular signatures of a rare cancer called cholangiocarcinoma, a type of liver cancer, and the relation of these signatures with clinical outcomes.
Rossi is a fourth-year resident in the division of gynecologic oncology. She has developed a study of the potential of sentinel lymph node mapping for cervical and uterine cancers, a less invasive procedure than the current standard of care, comprehensive lymph node staging. To complete her work she has partnered with a surgical robotics company developing new technology and initiated a clinical study to evaluate the efficacy of this innovative procedure.
Rosson’s wife, Robin, died of breast cancer in October 2010. She was a program assistant for the Get REAL & Heel program, an after care breast cancer program, and a sales support coordinator at Arcatech Systems in Mebane, NC.
Gary’s award cited him “for his unconditional love and support to his wife, Robin, during her fight against breast cancer and his selfless commitment to raising their two sons, Paul and Ryan.
Diane Groff, PhD, Rosson’s nominator, associate professor of exercise and sports science, and co-director of the Get REAL & HEEL Program, said, “Co-survivors sacrifice in countless ways to maintain the quality of life of their partners undergoing cancer treatment. Gary is deserving of this award because of all he brought to his wife’s life during their short five-year marriage, and because of his selfless commitment to raising his two adopted sons.” Groff is an associate member of UNC Lineberger.
Rosson said, “It was such an honor and privilege to share the last five years with Robin and to be blessed with the opportunity to serve as one of her caregivers during such an intimate process. Care-giving is a joint effort. Without thoughtful and faithful friends and family and the understanding and patience of our employers, real care-giving would be virtually impossible. While I am truly honored to receive such a thoughtful and meaningful award, it really belongs to all who loved and cared for Robin all her life, especially the last few years of it. ”
Numerous grants are awarded each year by The V Foundation - Dr. Earp described new research receiving support from The V Foundation that is looking at the “heart of what causes cancer and figuring out how to reverse it.” Led by Ian Davis, MD, and Jason Lieb, PhD, the project will test new compounds targeted toward sarcoma – an often deadly bone cancer.
ABC 11’s Heart of Carolina Perspectives show highlights community organizations that are making a difference.
Chapel Hill, NC – Ongoing research into the problem of how Hepatitis C becomes a chronic disease has uncovered a deeper mystery about its sister strain, Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis C is a continuing public health problem, which is difficult to measure because symptoms occur months to years after infection. The World Health Organization estimates as many as 2 to 4 million people in the United States may have chronic Hepatitis C, and most do not know they are infected. More than a third of those who are long-term carriers may develop chronic liver disease or liver cancer.
“Hepatitis viruses have co-evolved with humans over a very long period of time and they are good at evading the immune system, but nobody understands how Hepatitis C becomes a chronic infection,” says Stanley M. Lemon, MD, professor of microbiology and immunology and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Center for Translational Immunology.
Lemon and his colleagues thought that Hepatitis C might become chronic by disrupting the host’s interferon response – part of the innate immune system that protects the body against any kind of ‘foreign’ invader.
However, their study, published on-line in the Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., came up with some surprising findings.
In comparing data from experiments with Hepatitis A and Hepatitis C, the team found that Hepatitis A virus, which causes only acute, self-limited disease, is more efficient at inhibiting the host’s interferon response, and that the virus can actually linger in the body for almost a year.
“These results undermine the theory that evasion of the interferon response is a key mechanism in the development of chronic Hepatitis C – the outcome of infection with these viruses is very different, highlighting how little we understand the unique environment within the liver for virus-host interactions,” Lemon notes.
“It is actually the acute infection, Hepatitis A, that is stealthier at evading the interferon response.”
In addition to Lemon, the research team included Zongdi Feng, Ph.D., and Daisuke Yamane, D.V.M, Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill; Robert Lanford, PhD, of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and the Southwest National Primate Research Center; Deborah Chavez, MS, and Bernadette Guerra, BS, from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute; Kathleen Brasky, DVM, of the Southwest National Primate Center; Yan Zhou, PhD, and Christopher Walker, PhD, of the Center for Vaccines and Immunity at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH; and Alan Perelson, PhD, from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Note to reporters: Primate research was conducted at Southwest National Primate Research Center, San Antonio, TX.
Chapel Hill and Fayetteville, NC - A new project is hoping to tackle cancer health disparities in North Carolina by investigating how cancer prevention and health promotion activities can be more efficiently and effectively delivered in a variety of traditional and less conventional community settings where community members live, work, play, attend worship services, and socialize.
Researchers from UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health are working with members of the Cumberland County Community Against Cancer Advisory Board to identify and then interview leaders of organizations such as churches, grocery stores, schools/universities, barbershops/beauty salons, and other locations that community members frequent on a regular basis. The interviews will reveal a profile of who visits these locations, how often they visit, and identify opportunities for sharing life saving cancer prevention information and services in these settings.
“We know that in Cumberland County, like most counties in our state, the African-American community has higher rates of many types of cancer, and will die from cancer at higher rates as well. And, the Latino community experiences many obstacles to having access to lifesaving cancer prevention and detection services,” says Laura Linnan, ScD, CHES, Co-Principal Investigator of this study. “This study will allow us to identify the most effective and efficient way to reach community members by building a partnership that will last.”
“We know that the people in this community are the experts at helping us find the best ways to reach their friends and neighbors,” adds project Co-Principal Investigator Bryan Weiner, PhD, “We are so pleased the Cumberland County Community Against Cancer Advisory Board has come together to work with us to address these cancer disparities by helping us improve how and where cancer prevention interventions take place.”
Cancer is the leading cause of death in North Carolina. The good news is that more than 50% of cancer deaths can be prevented by lifestyle changes. African-American men die of cancer at a rate 36 percent higher than whites and the death rate for African-American women is 16 percent higher than their white counterparts. Latinas die of cervical cancer at more than twice the rate of white women, and often cancers in Latino men and women go undetected due to obstacles in receiving cancer prevention and early detection services.
This is one of the first six projects funded by the Health E NC (Health for Everyone in North Carolina) grants program. The program provides pilot funding in support of the University Cancer Research Fund’s strategic goal of optimizing cancer outcomes in North Carolina.
Projects were selected through a competitive review process that included a national group of experts. Projects were prioritized for funding that emphasize breakthrough innovation and excellence in behavioral research; collaborative, cross-disciplinary approaches; potential for generating additional external funding from peer-reviewed sources; and real and tangible impact on the health of North Carolinians. The projects focus on areas of the state where cancers, and in particular breast, lung and colorectal cancers, are common and place a burden on the health of North Carolinians.
Contact: Sandra Diehl, 910-763-3372, firstname.lastname@example.org
The group, founded and led by UNC Lineberger’s own Judy Swasey, RN, MSN, ANP, whose ‘day job’ is as a nurse in UNC’s nationally known breast center, helps women who have been inactive transition to a healthier, more active lifestyle through walking and running.
Cece Sumner of Durham said, despite the hot and humid conditions, “It was inspiring to be there. The Sole Sisters training helped me and I loved every minute.”
Jeri Brzozowski, also of Durham, added, “I am not athletic – it was great to have the support of the group and someone to inspire me. I will come back next year!”
The UNC Health Care/Rex team, of which Sole Sisters is a part, won the award for the largest team, marking the 10th time since 1999 that UNC has received the award.
The report concludes that cancer incidence among minority populations is projected to nearly double between 2010 and 2030 while increasing 31 percent among the non-Hispanic white population. At the same time, our understanding of cancer risk, progression and outcomes is primarily based on studies that do not include the diverse racial, ethnic and cultural variables that are present in today’s United States.
UNC’s Wizdom Powell Hammond, PhD, MPH, was honored to have been selected as a member of this expert panel – but the theme is a natural fit for her work. The assistant professor of health behavior and health education at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center does research that spans the individual, psychological factors that affect health behavior in minority populations all the way through the sociological, environmental and healthcare system factors that impact health status, health behavior and healthcare utilization.
“The panel looked at a really broad range of issues around health disparities including physician quality and cultural facility, healthcare access, sociohistorial issues around mistrust of the health care system and minority representation in clinical trials,” Hammond noted. These issues were reflected in the panel’s recommendations.
“There are lots of things happening at once – it’s a perfect storm to create cancer disparities,” she said, “What often happens under this level of complexity is that we trade off the structural issues – in an attempt to remove the visible or economic barriers – but don’t address longstanding cultural and relationship barriers that have an equal or greater influence on disparities. This panel addressed all of these issues and didn’t shy away from the complexity this approach creates.”
Hammond said she brought to the process an understanding of the key issues plaguing minority communities in terms of both health care use and clinical trial participation – things that happen in the processes of care that contribute to cancer disparities. “It was an honor and a privilege to give a voice to those communities and speak on their behalf.”
Her testimony centered around a few key issues, including medical mistrust – both the historical influences and experiences in today’s health care system that contribute to expectations of disparate treatment on the basis of race. While access to care is important – continuity of care may be critical to reducing cancer disparities. “To have the kinds of partnerships and trust with their physicians, continuity of care is important. We want folks to come in sooner if they notice something going on with their health – and the only way to have that happen is a patient-centered medical home,” she notes.
While praising efforts at inculcating broader cultural competency in physician training, she says, “We are all human beings and we are not yet living in a post-racial society. Issues of cultural competence need to be integrated throughout the curriculum – this could have a huge impact on the way patients are treated in care.” These issues also apply to minority recruitment for clinical trials. “We know that there are no differences in willingness when there are equal opportunities to participate. If we remember that people are bringing their lived experience to the interaction with physician and researchers, we can put in the effort to dissolve mistrust, fear and worries.”
Hammond stressed in her testimony that these changes aren’t something that ‘the system’ can do without input from all of those served. “Minority communities are eager to join us in our effort to end cancer disparities, but not as silent partners,” reads her quote in the report, “They want us to hear their voices, to include them as equal partners, and to do nothing about them without them.”
Chapel Hill, NC – Richard M. Goldberg, MD, Distinguished Professor and Chief of the UNC Division of Hematology/Oncology and Physician-in-Chief of the N.C. Cancer Hospital and Joel E. Tepper, MD, the Hector MacLean Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research in the Department of Radiation Oncology will be two of 20 recipients of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2011 Statesman Award.
The award, presented today at ASCO’s national meeting in Chicago, IL, recognizes the extraordinary dedication of ASCO members for their voluntary efforts that benefit the Society, the specialty of oncology, and the patients served by the profession and the society. Each year the award is given to volunteers who have given 20 or more cumulative years of service to the Society.
In addition to his other roles, Goldberg is also Associate Director for Clinical Research at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He earned his MD at the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York. Following his training in internal medicine, he spent two years as a Fellow in Medical Oncology at the Vincent T. Lombardi Cancer Research Center at Georgetown University. Prior to joining UNC in 2003 he was an Associate in Medical Oncology at the Geisinger Medical Center and Clinic in Danville, Pennsylvania, and was appointed Vice Chairman of the Department of Medicine there in 1992. From 1994–2003, he was Associate Professor, then Professor of Oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and chaired the Mayo Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Program. In 2004 he was appointed the chair of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Committee for the Cancer and Acute Leukemia B Group (CALGB), where he now serves as Associate Group Chair for Intergroup Affairs.
In addition to ASCO, Dr. Goldberg is a member of American Association for Cancer Research (AACR),), and the American Joint Commission on Cancer (AJCC) colorectal task force. He has been an invited reviewer for many leading medical and oncology journals, and on the editorial boards of the NCI’s Physician Data Query program, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Clinical Colorectal Cancer, and Oncology. Dr. Goldberg’s principal research interests include the evaluation of new agents for the treatment of colorectal cancer, inherited colorectal cancer syndromes, clinical trials methodology, and the role of meta-analysis in the decision making process for evidence based medicine. He has coauthored more than 200 publications.
Dr. Tepper is also a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is board-certified in radiation therapy by the American Board of Radiology. Dr. Tepper earned his MD from Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. He completed his residency in radiation oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He has served as a Senior Investigator at the National Cancer Institute and has been a faculty member at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School before coming to UNC in 1987. He was Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at UNC for almost 20 years. Dr. Tepper has published numerous articles and abstracts in the area of combined modality therapy in gastrointestinal cancers and has served as principal investigator for UNC’s GI SPORE grant. He is at present co-PI for The UNC CCNE grant (Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence).
His research efforts focus on evaluating the mechanism of interactions between radiation and chemotherapeutic agents and evaluating these interactions through clinical trials. He is past-president and past-chairman of the board of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and is a recipient of an ASTRO Gold Medal. In addition, he is co-Chair of the NCI GI Steering Committee, has served on the steering committee of ASCO/ASTRO/AGA/SSO GI Oncology Conference and until recently was on the board of directors of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He is a member of CTAC-the Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee which is advisory to the NCI Director.
Each year, ASCO acknowledges programs that have 10o percent fellow membership in ASCO. As one of the programs that has achieved this status, the Hematology/Oncology program at UNC will receive a Training Program Membership Award.
UNC’s oncology fellows are physicians who have completed their MD degrees as well as a residency program in internal medicine and are at UNC to complete advanced training in the field of medical oncology. Once their training program is complete, they will be eligible to become board certified in oncology.
This training program is an important component of UNC Lineberger’s three-part mission to improve cancer care through research, clinical care and education of the next generation of physicians and scientists.
Congratulations to Thomas Stinchcombe, MD, Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Director, and Fran Collichio, MD, Hematology/Oncology Associate Fellowship Director, and to all of our fellows!
One of the research studies highlighted was led by Wizdom Powell Hammond, PhD. Dr. Hammond is an assistant professor in the department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the Men’s Health Research Lab at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is also a member of UNC Lineberger.
Monitor on Psychology is a monthly publication of the American Psychological Association – it includes the latest information on psychologists' work, research and association activities.
The purpose was to lose some hair to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. St. Baldrick’s has funded pediatric oncology fellowships at UNC.
The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a volunteer-driven international charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives. They have given over $120,000 to UNC for fellowships and research.
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"real doctors, real people" is a video series produced by UNC Health Care that gives a fresh look into the lives of some of UNC’s physicians. Read more about the series and Dr. Gold's feature video on the UNC Health Care website.
LIVESTRONG® Survivorship Center of Excellence Network to Host Landmark Meeting on Survivorship Care and Advocacy in Response to 2011 Report Findings
Chapel Hill, NC - May 31, 2011 – The LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network (Network) will host a landmark meeting on survivorship care, September 15-16, in Washington D.C. This meeting is in direct response to the findings from the 2011 LIVESTRONG report, “Defining Survivorship Care: Lessons Learned from the LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network.” The report offers new insight into the challenges and opportunities that effect patient care and the advancement of the growing field of survivorship.
Survivorship is a relatively new focus within the field of oncology. With advances in treatment and medicine, more people are surviving cancer. As a result, there is an increasing need to learn more about the medical and non-medical concerns that affect this growing population such as fear of recurrence, grief and identity issues, fatigue, pain and difficulty concentrating.
“LIVESTRONG has been a strong advocate for incorporating survivorship into the continuum of cancer care,” said Doug Ulman, LIVESTRONG president and CEO. “Through the LIVESTRONG Center of Excellence Network, we are bringing together the nation’s leading cancer centers to share best practices, lessons learned and ensure that our collective knowledge will help improve care for cancer survivors everywhere.”
“There was no field of survivorship until Livestrong created it,” says Dr. Lawrence Shulman, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs. “As oncologists, we were entirely focused on making the cancer go away. We weren’t looking at people’s long-term problems.” He adds, “It’s hard for me to think of another organization that has done things like this, so seriously, in an academic and scientific way.”
Through the September meeting, the Network seeks to partner with other key leaders in the field to further define survivorship care, under the leadership of the Essential Elements of Survivorship Care Advisory Committee and the Network Steering Committee. At the meeting, the Network will use the 2011 report as its catalyst to make practical suggestions about what elements of survivorship care are feasible to implement and how to overcome the challenges associated with implementation. A new, refined and more detailed list of strategies will be the intended outcome of this ambitious effort. The Network will also take into consideration the report’s recommendations to institutions seeking to integrate survivorship into current cancer programs, highlighting how patient needs are addressed and met throughout any new survivor care program.
This new report follows the 2006 Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report, “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition” that made great advances in survivorship care by outlining high-level components of care that were yet untested including the:
- prevention of recurrent and new cancers
- surveillance for the spread of cancer, recurrence or second cancers
- intervention for the consequences of cancer and its treatment
- coordination between specialists and primary care providers to ensure that all of a survivor’s health needs are met
Over the past six years, the Network has dedicated itself to testing these elements on a large scale, in both community- and specialty-focused practices, to best develop a foundation on which future survivorship care programs should be built.
Marci Campbell, PhD, co-director of the UNC Lineberger’s COE, said, “These findings build on the tremendous work of LIVESTRONG and the Network and will make an impact on the expanding field of cancer survivorship. We are proud of UNC’s role in conducting much of the research behind this report. We hope that cancer centers and hospitals can incorporate these findings into their practices so that patients and caregivers can transition seamlessly from active treatment to find optimal survivorship programs and services to meet their needs. “
Founded in 2005, the Network was established to advance survivorship care and to improve the health and quality of life of cancer survivors. The Network is a group of National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers offering information, care and services to cancer survivors, their family members and health care providers. LIVESTRONG and the Network remain committed to addressing key issues in survivor care through continued research in the area of survivorship and ongoing medical community engagement to best serve the needs of cancer survivors. In line with this work, the Network will host a training for medical professionals on developing a survivorship program in October 2011 at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass.
LIVESTRONG is the brand of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, created in 1997 by the cancer survivor and champion cyclist to serve people living with cancer and empower communities to take action.
The Network is comprised of eight NCI-designated cancer centers, including UNC Lineberger. Others in the Network include:
- Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania
- Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
- Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
- Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCLA
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
- The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute
- University of Colorado Cancer Center
The Network Steering Committee
- Marcia Grant, DNSc, RN, FAAN
- Mary Gullatte, PhD, RN, ANP, BC, AOCN, FAAN
- Alton Hart, MD, MPH
- Andy Miller, MHSE, CHES
- Margaret Kripke, PhD
- Guadalupe Palos, RN, LMSW, DrPH
- Angela Patterson
- Ruth Rechis, PhD
The Network’s Essential Elements of Survivorship Care Advisory Committee Members:
- Richard Carmona MD, MPH., FACS - U.S. Surgeon General, President of the Canyon Ranch Institute
- Robert T. Croyle, PhD - Director, Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences, NCI
- Mitch Golant, PhD - Senior VP, Research & Training for Cancer Support Community
- Melissa Hudson, MD - Director, Cancer Survivorship Division; Co-Leader, Cancer Prevention & Control Program at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
- J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP - Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society
- Diane Meier, MD, FACP - Director, Center to Advance Palliative Care; Director, Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Professor, Geriatrics and Internal Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
- Paula T. Reiger, RN, MSN, CAE, FAAN - Chief Executive Officer, Oncology Nursing Society
About LIVESTRONG/Lance Armstrong Foundation
LIVESTRONG serves people affected by cancer and empowers them to take action against the world's leading cause of death. Created as the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1997 by cancer survivor and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, the organization is now known publicly by its powerful brand -- LIVESTRONG -- and is a leader in the global movement on behalf of 28 million people around the world living with cancer today. Known for its iconic yellow wristband, LIVESTRONG has become a symbol of hope and inspiration to people affected by cancer around the world. Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $400 million for the fight against cancer. For more information, visit LIVESTRONG.org.
Chapel Hill, NC – Laboratory research has always been limited in terms of what conclusions scientists can safely extrapolate from animal experiments to the human population as a whole. Many promising findings in mice have not held up under further experimentation, in part because laboratory animals, bred from a limited genetic foundation, don’t provide a good representation of how genetic diversity manifests in the broader human population.
Now, thanks to an in-depth analysis by a team led by Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, PhD, in the UNC Department of Genetics and Gary Churchill, PhD, at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, researchers will be able to use an online resource dubbed the Mouse Phylogeny Viewer to select from among 162 strains of laboratory mice for which the entire genome has been characterized. Phylogeny refers to the connections among all groups of organisms as understood by ancestor/descendant relationships. Pardo-Manuel de Villena is also a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences.
The results of the analysis that make this tool possible were published online today in the journal Nature Genetics.
“The viewer provides scientists with a visual tool where they can actually go and look at the genome of the mouse strains they are using or considering, compare the differences and similarities between strains and select the ones most likely to provide the basis for experimental results that can be more effectively extrapolated to the diverse human population,” said Pardo-Manuel de Villena.
“As scientists use this resource to find ways to prevent and treat the genetic changes that cause cancer, heart disease, and a host of other ailments, the diversity of our lab experiments should be much easier to translate to humans,” he noted.
He explains that the DNA of a given pair of typical laboratory mouse strains varies in only half of their genome and captures less than 20 percent of the diversity of the entire mouse genome. Historically, biomedical researchers have relied on what are called classical inbred strains of mice in laboratory research. With the advance of genetic science, researchers began to use wild-derived laboratory strains (descendants of captured wild mice that originate from a small number of original ancestors) to try to overcome issues associated with limited genetic diversity. However, scientists’ understanding of genetic diversity in mice has – until now – been limited and biased toward the most frequently used strains.
The team compared the genome of a large and diverse sample including 36 strains of wild-caught mice, 62 wild-derived laboratory strains and 100 classical strains obtained from different stocks and different laboratories using the Mouse Diversity array – a technology that maps the entire mouse genome.
Their analysis exponentially increases the data available to geneticists who work with mice, allowing them to statistically impute the whole mouse genome sequence with very high accuracy for hundreds of laboratory mouse strains – leading to much greater precision in the interpretation of existing biomedical data and optimal selection of strains in future experiments.
The Mouse Phylogeny Viewer is available at http://msub.csbio.unc.edu/.
Other team members include Leonard McMillan, PhD, two graduate students Jeremy Wang and Catherine Welsh from the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Computer Science; Timothy Bell, Ryan Buus and graduate student John Didion all from the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Genetics , UNC Lineberger and the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences; Hyuna Yang, PhD, from The Jackson Laboratory; Francois Bonhomme, PhD, and Pierre Boursot, PhD, from the Universite Montpellier (France) ; Alex Yu, PhD, from the National Taiwan University; Michael Nachman, PhD , from the University of Arizona; Jaroslav Pialek, PhD, from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and Priscilla Tucker, PhD, from the University of Michigan.
The research was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (part of the National Institutes of Health), and several additional National Institutes of Health grants, a Czech Science Foundation grant and a University of North Carolina Bioinformatics and Computational Biology training grant.
University Cancer Research Fund updates, record poster session highlights of 2011 scientific retreat
The retreat featured talks by Ben Neel, director of the Ontario Cancer Institute; UNC faculty and fellows and an update on UCRF and UNC Lineberger from Shelley Earp, director. Following the talks was a reception and poster session. View poster showing retreat agenda.
Speakers included: Genetics/Genomics Theme Team - Terry Magnuson, PhD, theme team leader; Piotr Mieczkowski, PhD; Corbin Jones, PhD; Jonathan Berg, MD, PhD; Will Jeck, PhD; and Kim Rathmell, MD, PhD.
New Therapeutics Theme Team - Ned Sharpless, MD, theme team leader; Patrick Roberts, PharmD, PhD; and James Duncan, PhD.
And, the Optimizing NC Cancer Outcomes Theme Team - Andy Olshan, PhD, theme team leader; Kurt Ribisl, PhD; and Bill Carpenter, PhD.
Winners of the poster competition were awarded $250.00, first prize; $150.00, second prize; and $100.00, third prize.
Basic Science Winners
First Place: Stephanie Smith-Roe, UNC postdoctoral fellow: “Contribution of the Replication Fork Protection Complex, Timeless-Tipin, to Multiple Genome Maintenance Functions.”
Second Place: Hao Chen, NCCU postdoctoral fellow: “Pax9 is Critical for Development of Esophageal Epithelium.”
Third Place: Emily Fontenot, UNC clinical fellow: “A Monoclonal Antibody to Secreted Frizzle Related Protein 2 Inhibits Angiosarcoma Growth.”
Third Place: Rebecca Sinnott, UNC graduate student: “Elucidating Molecular Mechanisms that Modulate Mitotic-Stress Induced Death.”
First Place: Lee Mullin, UNC graduate student: “UltrasoundMediated Nanoparticle Drug Delivery: In-Vitro and In-Vivo Studies.”
Second Place: Matthew D. Wilkinson, UNC postdoctoral fellow: “Lung Cancer Patients Exhibit a Genomewide Chromosomal Instability and DNA Methylation Correlation Which Varies by Expression Subtype.”
Third Place: George Chao, UNC graduate student: “Loss of BRCA1-dependent DNA Repair Genes is Associated with Basal-like Breast Tumors.”
Population Sciences Winners
First Place: Christina DeFilippo Mack, UNC graduate student: “Racial Disparities in Receipt and Comparative Effectiveness of Oxaliplatin for Stage III Colon Cancer in Older Adults.”
Second Place: Dori M. Steinberg, UNC graduate student: “Are There Negative Consequences to Daily Self-Weighing Among Overweight Adults?”
Third Place: Leah L. Zullig, UNC graduate student: “Organizational Factors Associated with Patient Accrual into Community-Based Cancer Clinical Trials.”
View More Photos from the Retreat
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Nancy Klauber-DeMore, MD, associate professor of surgery, said, “We now have a rationale for performing human clinical trials to determine if Tacrolimus reduces breast cancer growth in humans. Since Tacrolimus is already an FDA-approved drug, the safety and toxicity profile is known, which means that Tacrolimus could potentially go directly into a later stage clinical trial."
Klauber-DeMore is a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Enci Therapeutics, Inc., a UNC spin-off biotech company.
Tacrolimus is used to prevent rejection (when a person’s immune system attacks a transplanted organ by the immune system of a person receiving the organ) in people who have received kidney, liver, or heart transplants. Tacrolimus is in a class of medications called immunosuppressants. It works by decreasing the activity of the immune system to prevent it from attacking the transplanted organ. Tacrolimus does this by binding to and inactivating a protein called calcineurin in immune cells.
Although preventing organ transplant rejection and inhibiting cancer growth may seem unrelated, the team realized that activating calcineurin is a common pathway that stimulates both the immune system and the growth of new blood vessels to tumors. Blocking blood vessel growth to tumors is a therapeutic strategy to inhibit tumor growth.
Klauber-DeMore’s group had previously discovered that a protein called SFRP2 stimulates blood vessel growth and is expressed in human breast cancers. While investigating the mechanism through which SFRP2 stimulates blood vessel growth, they found that SFRP2 activates calcineurin in blood vessel cells. Based on this mechanism, Klauber-DeMore thought that Tacrolimus might also bind to and inactivate calcineurin in blood vessel cells, thereby blocking new blood vessel growth to tumors. The team tested this theory in a pre-clinical breast tumor model and found that orally administered Tacrolimus inhibited breast tumor growth rate by over 70 percent.
Klauber-DeMore said, “This data is encouraging, but we don’t know yet whether Tacrolimus will inhibit breast cancer growth in humans. However, this pre-clinical study provides a reasoning for the next step, which will be to perform a clinical trial using Tacrolimus in patients with breast cancer.”
Side effects of Tacrolimus can be severe and include infection, cardiac damage, hypertension, blurred vision, liver, and kidney problems. Patients need to be monitored carefully and the dose is adjusted as needed.
Other authors are from the UNC School of Medicine department of surgery: Joseph Caster, PhD; Desh Bandhu Nepal, MD; and Andrew Courtwright, MD, PhD; the UNC McAllister Heart Institute: Eleanor Hilliard, BS, and Cam Patterson, MD (who is also a co-founder and President of Enci Therapeutics, Inc); and UNC Lineberger: Sharareh Siamakpour-Reihan, PhD; Jerry Usary, PhD; David Ketelsen, MA, MBA; David Darr, MS; and Xiang Jun Shen, PhD. Funding for the work was provided by University Cancer Research Fund and the National Cancer Institute.
Diagnosed in 2005 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, May has received numerous blood transfusions. Because of the disease, he’s no longer eligible to give blood. But he has words of encouragement and thanks for anyone who does.
“It saves people’s lives, and you just never know when you may need it,” said May, who works at the General Alumni Association at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It’s just so good and useful, and a lot of people need it.”
A lot of people will be able to give on June 7 at the 23rd annual Carolina Blood Drive, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Dean Smith Center at UNC, sponsored by UNC and the American Red Cross. Information and registration are available at www.unc.edu/blood. (Details are listed below).
The hardest part of what May calls his six-year cancer “adventure” was at the start, when he and his wife, Susie, learned he had Stage 4B (worst possible case) cancer, with at best a 50 percent chance of living. The reaction of his UNC oncologist, assistant professor of medicine Dr. Peter Voorhees, gave May something to cling to throughout his experience: “We’ll go for the cure.”
May underwent six months of one type of chemotherapy, then six months of another, then a week of massive doses in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. May continued to work until spring of 2006, when he went on medical disability and into semi-isolation because his immune system was so weakened by the chemo.
“They take you as close to death as they can without killing you,” he said. “I looked at the treatments as a way to win, thinking positively that they would work, and refused to let them get me down.”
In September 2006, May had bluegrass music played while the transplant was done. His own stem cells, harvested earlier, were infused back into his body.
Dr. Tom Shea, one of May’s physicians, is a professor of medicine at UNC and directs the Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program at UNC Hospitals and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Blood transfusions are critical to the successful treatments of patients with diseases like cancer when they are undergoing chemotherapy, as well as patients in surgery where loss of blood during the operation can be a major problem,” Shea said. “While we try to reduce transfusions, we can never avoid them altogether and would be unable to undertake life-saving treatments like organ or bone marrow transplants unless we had blood products such as red blood cells or platelets available for our patients.”
In UNC Hospitals for about two weeks after the operation, May needed one blood transfusion and two units of platelets – cell fragments in blood that aid in clotting.
For four years, the lymphoma stayed in remission. “I was getting good check-ups, with no sign of the cancer coming back,” May said. But last Dec. 24, Susie suffered abdominal pains. May took her to a health care facility, where he picked up a virus that attacked his immune system and spleen and began destroying his platelets.
Susie recovered after having her gall bladder out, while May was put on a cocktail of drugs. He was in and out of UNC Hospitals for months. “I would do well on the drugs, but when I got off of them I would crash again.”
Finally doctors decided the best solution would be to take out May’s spleen, which they did via a laparoscopy April 19. But while he was in recovery, a blood vessel that had been connected to the spleen, then sealed off in the laparoscopy, broke open.
“They rushed me back into the operating room, and the second operation was an open incision,” May said. He needed four units of blood to replace what he had lost.
But by the end of April, May, 62, was back on the job as the alumni association’s printing and mailing coordinator, a post he will have held for 25 years come June. If he maintains good health for another six months to a year, he’ll be considered cured. He’s back to what he loves: family, music, photography, plus sunshine, flowers.
“Everything is beautiful,” he said. “The little problems that pop up in everyone’s lives do not take on the same priority anymore. It makes you appreciate every day, every hour, every minute.”
His sunny disposition still intact, May added: “I try to laugh about everything. It’s good for your health.”
CAROLINA BLOOD DRIVE FACTS
- What: One of the largest American Red Cross blood drives on the East Coast, also sponsored by UNC.
- When: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 7
- Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Bowles Drive off Manning Drive, Chapel Hill
- Who: Donors from campus and the surrounding area welcome.
- Appointments, eligibility and information: www.unc.edu/blood (Walk-ins welcome, but appointments strongly suggested).
- Parking: Free in lots around the center.
- Snack choices after donating: Krispy Kreme doughnuts, pizza, barbecue, veggie wraps, breakfast pastries, sausage biscuits, juice, beverages, more.
- Prizes: T-shirts; door prizes including two tickets to each of three UNC games, in football and men’s (non-conference) and women’s (conference) basketball; entry post-donation into a drawing for two pair of round-trip Delta Airlines tickets.
- Celebrity visitors expected: Chancellor Holden Thorp and Patti Thorp; head football coach Butch Davis and Tammy Davis; basketball legend and radio announcer Eric Montross; Dr. William Roper, dean of the medical school and CEO of UNC Health Care.
- Sponsors: UNC Human Resources, Student Stores, Athletics, Printing Services, a committee from across campus; American Red Cross
Dr. Otey is a professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology and a member of UNC Lineberger.
Here's to Your Health is a news talk show that provides health information. It is presented by WCHL and UNC Family Medicine and hosted by Dr. Adam Goldstein and Dr. Cristy Page.
Listen to the show featuring Dr. Otey (once you click the link, locate the May 14, 2011 show and click the “play” button)