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Chapel Hill – Channing Der, PhD, Kenan Professor of Pharmacology, and Yue Xiong, PhD, Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, have been awarded the fourth annual Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award in recognition of their accomplishments in cancer research. Both are members of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award, established in 2007 by the Battle Foundation of Rocky Mount, recognizes exceptional cancer research at the UNC School of Medicine and comes with a $25,000 prize for each awardee. The Battle award fund is a permanent endowment held by The Medical Foundation of North Carolina, Inc.

William Roper, MD, MPH, Dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO, UNC Health Care, said, “Yue Xiong and Channing Der are internationally recognized for their scientific achievements. They have been career long contributors to UNC Lineberger’s basic approach to understanding and treating cancer. They have devoted their laboratories and talents to training and mentoring students, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty.”

Der is internationally regarded for his pioneering work with the RAS oncogene and other members of this large gene family. Der has elucidated the role of RAS mutations in cancers particularly colorectal and pancreatic cancers in which RAS is mutated in over 50% of the cases. His research has helped define the role of RAS, and related pathways, in the cause and progression of these diseases. In recent years, he has established that other members of the RAS gene family can accelerate growth of cancer invasion and metastasis. He is now studying the potential of drugs that might change these cancer-causing pathways with the aim of developing new therapies.

He is revered as a mentor to young scientists and as a generous collaborator with other scientists. Der leads the Lineberger Center’s graduate program in cancer biology; he joined the UNC faculty in 1992.

Xiong has made groundbreaking discoveries in the control of normal cell growth and the derangements that occur in cancer, including describing a crucial class of regulatory genes lost in the vast majority of human cancers. While a postdoctoral fellow, he helped to identify cyclin D, a central, growth-control gene. After coming to UNC, Xiong and colleagues discovered a family of genes that act as brakes or suppressors of normal cell growth. His work showed how cancer cells escape normal growth control by either overexpressing growth stimulators like cyclin D or by losing growth suppressor genes. He also helped identify the cullin family of ubiquitin ligases that play additional, critical roles in modulating cell cycle regulator genes.

His current research involves cancer-related alterations in cell metabolism including mutations of metabolism genes that promotes brain cancer growth. He is working with Lineberger colleagues to develop drugs that could reverse the action of these mutant metabolism genes. Xiong, the leader of UNC Lineberger’s Cancer Cell Biology Program, has guided multiple postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to successful research careers. He came to UNC in 1993 and received the UNC Hettleman Award for Scholarly Achievement in 1999.

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