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The 2012 University Cancer Research Fund Innovation Awards recognize six University of North Carolina researchers for groundbreaking cancer research. The UCRF Innovation Awards are designed to support innovation, collaboration and cancer-focused science across a broad spectrum of the cancer-research community at UNC.

The award emphasizes top-notch, new science, as well as significant breakthroughs in concepts, methods and collaborations. Awards can range up to $100,000 a year for two years funding. All UNC faculty and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer members qualify for the award. In 2012, the awards will provide $977,000 to support the following research projects.

Sharon Campbell, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Molecular Characterization of Monoubiquitinated Ras and its Role in Cancer

Campbell’s research investigates the usefulness and feasibility of developing techniques to modify the protein Ras by monoubiquitination in order to develop an anti-Ras inhibitor. Ras is linked to mutations in 33 percent of human cancers, and it is currently considered “undruggable” because of the difficulty of finding therapeutics that will bind to and suppress the protein.

Kathleen Caron, PhD, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology

Adrenomedullin Signaling in Tumor Lymphangiogenesis

Caron has identified a unique G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling cascade that is linked to the growth of lymphatic vascular system and a subset of cancers with poor prognosis. Her research seeks to determine the links between this signaling cascade and the spread of tumors through the lymphatic vascular system, with the ultimate aim of producing therapies that limit the spread of cancer through the lymphatic system.

Kathleen Dorsey, PhD, Department of Epidemiology

Characterization of an Epigenetic Variant in the MSH3 Mismatch Repair Gene as a Biomarker of Chemoresistance in African American Breast Cancer Cases

African American women are diagnosed with more breast cancers and have lower survival rates than white women, even when accounting for prognostic and treatment differences. Dr. Dorsey’s discovered a variant of the MSH3 Mismatch Repair Gene found in 32 percent of African American cancer patients and two percent of patients of other ethnicities. Dr. Dorsey intends to investigate this link to see if the gene can be used a biomarker for chemotherapy resistance and a possible future drug target.

Shawn Hingtgen, PhD, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy

Transdifferentiated Neural Stem Cells: A Novel Approach for Cancer Therapy

Drug delivery to the brain is a major medical challenge, causing difficulties in treating brain tumors such as the aggressive cancer Glioblastoma. Dr. Hingtgen’s research will investigate the use of stem cell-based therapy to target Glioblastoma.

Jonathan Serody MD, School of Medicine

IgH Repertoire Sequencing to Predict Early Response to HER-2/neu Vaccination in Breast Cancer

Serody will research using the response of IgH, a gene that produces human antibodies, as a biomarker to determine the effectiveness of vaccine-based immunotherapies for cancer. The research aims at using a mouse model to develop early predictors of immune response and cancer regression from vaccines, with the ultimate aim of developing a predictor for humans.

Fernando Pardo Manuel de Villena

Next Generation Animal Models To Define Cancer Genetics

This project aims at developing a new mouse model to study the genetics of basal-like breast cancer. The research will expand the understanding of the cancer, which has a poor prognosis and lack of existing targeted therapies.

For more information, visit the UCRF 2012 Innovations Awards page at