IVAN ALLEN COLLEGE NAMES WILLIAM J. TODD RECIPIENT OF 2010 IVAN ALLEN JR. PRIZE
Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts has named William J. Todd, president and CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, as the 2010 recipient of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service. Todd will accept the award during the College’s annual Founder’s Day event on Monday, March 15, in the Georgian Ballroom at The Biltmore. Todd’s acceptance speech at 1:00 p.m. will be free and open to the public as space permits.
A Georgia Tech alumnus, Todd has devoted 38 years to healthcare and technology management in Atlanta and currently leads the Georgia Cancer Coalition in efforts to make the state a national leader in cancer care and reduce cancer deaths among Georgians. Ivan Allen College Interim Dean Kenneth J. Knoespel highlighted Todd’s embodiment of the values and principles of former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr.
“Bill Todd is an extraordinary humanitarian and community leader. His accomplishments and steadfast commitment embody Mayor Allen’s advocacy and compassion. It is our privilege to recognize his contributions to our community, state and the world,” said Knoespel.
Todd founded Encina Technology Ventures and was founding president of the Georgia Research Alliance. He has held administrative posts with Emory University, Grady Memorial Hospital, Wesley Woods, Emory Clinic, and Emory’s School of Medicine and Woodruff Health Sciences Center. Throughout his career, Todd has served on the boards of some of Atlanta’s most influential civic and business entities and in organizations that have provided strategic guidance for Georgia Tech. He has been honored in Northern Ireland for his work to further peace in that region.
Todd will be the tenth leader to receive the Ivan Allen Jr. Award for Progress and Service. The Prize recognizes individuals associated with Georgia who have contributed to the progress and service of society through fields relevant to the curriculum of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Past honorees have included former President Jimmy Carter, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, Ted Turner, and CARE President and CEO Helene Gayle.
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE (MSM) RESEARCHERS HAVE DISCOVERED A NOVEL POST-TRANSLATIONAL MECHANISM THAT WILL HAVE GLOBAL EFFECT ON THE GENE EXPRESSIO
Atlanta, July 7, 2009 — Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) researchers have discovered a novel post-translational mechanism that will have global effect on the gene expression, differentiation, cancer and other human diseases.
Shyam Reddy, Ph.D., professor and co-director, Cancer Biology Program, and Georgia Cancer Coalition distinguished cancer scholar, and his group have shown for the first time transcription factor CBP-mediated post-translational N-glycosylation of BRCA2 protein (involved in breast, ovarian and prostate cancers) (International Journal of Oncology 35: 387-391, 2009).
The majority of N-linked glycosylation of proteins occur in secretory and membrane proteins. This typical N-glycosylation of a protein takes place upon entry of the protein into the lumen of endoplasmic reticulum (ER), where there is a transfer of carbohydrate moiety to asparagine residue present in the protein. In bacteria, N-glycosylation can occur independently of the protein traslocation. Here, Reddy and his group find that such protein modifications can also occur even in eukaryotic cells. They show that transcriptional cofactor CBP interacts with BRCA2 protein and mediates its N-glycosylation both in vitro and in vivo. This is the first report that a transcription cofactor like CBP may be involved in protein translocation-independent N-glycosylation.
Reddy predicts that this CBP-mediated post-translational modification may be a signal for degradation of CBP interacting proteins. Interestingly, BRCA2 protein is known to be ubiquitinated and degraded by the proteosomal pathway. Reddy is presently testing this hypothesis. Since CBP cofactor interacts with many onco-proteins, tumor suppressors and transcription factors, such a signal may be vital to regulate the expression of these interacting proteins which play an important role in cell growth, differentiation and cell death.
Therefore, this post-translational N-glycosylation can have global effect on gene function, cell growth and differentiation. Micro deletions, chromosomal translocations and point mutations in CBP are linked to congenital developmental disorder, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RTS), neurogenerative diseases and cancer. It is possible that deregulation of CBP-mediated glycosyltransferase is associated with development of RTS, neurogenerative diseases, and cancers.
Other researchers participating in this study include Veena N Rao, Ph.D., professor and co-director of the Cancer Biology Program and Georgia Cancer Coalition distinguished cancer scholar; Habibur Siddique, Ph.D.
This work was funded by Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar Award to Reddy and Rao, MSM/UAB/TU U54 partnership, NIH RO1 and DOD grant awards to Reddy.
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MSM RESEARCHERS SOLVE A MAJOR BREAST CANCER PUZZLE
Atlanta – March 16, 2009 Morehouse School of Medicine’s (MSM) researchers have solved one of the biggest puzzles in breast cancer research – how and why BRCA1 dysfunction results in tissue-specific breast and ovarian cancers. The health implications of this study in cancer health disparities are truly immense.
According to the results by Veena N. Rao, Ph.D. professor and co-director of the Cancer Biology Program, in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of MSM, Georgia Cancer Coalition distinguished cancer scholar, the paper reveals why women with alterations in the BRCA1 gene often develop Estrogen-receptor negative breast cancers, which could potentially lead to function-based cellular assays that can validate their risk for developing these aggressive breast cancers, where she served as senior author, will be published in the Apil 2009 online issue of International Journal of Oncology, Vol.34, No 4.
The study suggests for the first time that the reason women with BRCA1 dysfunction get hormone-responsive cancers like breast and ovarian is that BRCA1 regulates the dynamic cycles of SUMO and Ubiquitin modifications required for Estrogen receptor-alpha turn over and deregulation of this molecular switch due to lack of BRCA1 results in Estrogen receptor-negative & positive breast cancers.
BRCA1 dysfunction results in hereditary and sporadic breast cancers. Majority of the women with BRCA1 mutations are estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative and HER-2 receptor-negative (Triple Negative breast cancers).TN breast cancers are highly aggressive, more common in young African-American women, have higher rates of distant metastasis and currently there are no targeted treatments against these cancers. There is significant overlap between TN breast cancers & BRCA1 associated breast cancers that suggests that dysfunction in the BRCA1 pathway may be responsible for the development of these cancers.
Rao’s team has previously identified two short forms of BRCA1 protein named BRCA1a and BRCA1b, which are expressed at reduced levels in breast and ovarian cancers. BRCA1a and BRCA1b differ from BRCA1 in having an in frame deletion of majority of the exon 11 sequences that comprise 60 percent of the BRCA1 coding region. BRCA1b has an additional deletion of exon 9 and 10 sequences. They have previously shown that inhibition of expression of this protein in normal cells results in cancer and high level of expression of which results in cell death and growth inhibition of TN breast cancers, ovarian and prostate cancers.
The researchers have found SUMO-E2-conjugating enzyme Ubc9 to be a new binding partner for BRCA1, BRCA1a and BRCA1b proteins. Mutation in the Ubc9 binding site as well as BRCA1 RING domain cancer-predisposing mutation (C61G) disrupted the ability to both bind as well as modulate Ubc9 mediated SUMO-dependent/independent estrogen-induced ER-alpha transcriptional activity in breast cancer cells.
The researchers have shown for the first time BRCA1 protein to function as a novel SUMO-1 and Ubc9-dependent E3 ubiquitin ligase for ER-alpha. These studies show that BRCA1 represses levels of ER-alpha by promoting its degradation. BRCA1 belongs to a new family of RING-finger proteins that link both the SUMO and Ubiquitin pathways. “We believe that binding of SUMO-tagged ER-alpha to Ubc9 could serve as a signal for BRCA1 proteins to target it for degradation and impairment of this function can results in breast and ovarian cancers” says Rao. “Our future efforts will be geared towards studying BRCA1 protein function in a totally new direction.”
These findings uncover the paradox as to why BRCA1 dysfunction leads to TN breast cancers as well as develop novel targeted therapies based on enhancing the degradation of stalled ER-alpha to reinitiate transcription offers a promising method for the treatment of these ER-negative breast cancers.
Other researchers participating in this study include Shyam P. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and co-director of the Cancer Biology Program and Georgia Cancer Coalition distinguished cancer scholar; Jiang Xu, M.D., and Tameka Watkins, M.S.
Rao received the 2005 Science Spectrum Emerald Honors Senior Investigator Award, the 2006 Science Spectrum Trail Blazer Award, the 2007 Women of Color in Technology Research Leadership Award, and the 2008 North American Konkini Association Outstanding Achievement in Science Award. Recently she was appointed as an editorial board member of the Open Breast Cancer Journal.
The technologies dealing with the novel cell-based assays and other related technology developed in Rao’s laboratory at MSM will be available for commercialization.
This work was funded by Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar Award.
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE SCHOLAR AWARDED $525,000 DOD AWARD FOR PROSTATE CANCER RESEARCH
Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) will be able to continue its revolutionary research on prostate cancer – a disease that killed more than 27,000 men in the United States in 2006 – thanks to a new grant by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) Distinguished Cancer Scholar E. Shyam P. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and co-director, Cancer Biology Program, MSM Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Health System and has received a $525,000 grant from the DOD to continue his groundbreaking work on prostate cancer.
African-American males are 1.7 times more likely to develop, and two to three times more likely to die
from prostate cancer than White males. Th us, African-American males within the United States are affected
disproportionately by prostate cancer compared to White males. One of the goals of the DOD program is to
identify features of molecular pathways that diff erentially affect African-American males compared to White males.
The ERG gene discovered by Reddy and Veena N. Rao, Ph.D., co-director of the Cancer Biology Program,
is involved in 60 to 80 percent of prostate cancers. Reddy and his colleagues (Rao; Roland Matthews, M.D.;
Yasuo Fujimura, Ph.D.; Ganapathy K. Bhat, Ph.D.; and Shubhalaxmi Kayarthodi) developed a novel cell
based assay to assess the function of ERG proteins. Using this novel assay, Reddy identifi ed a novel targeted
therapeutic agent that inhibits ERG function and also functions as an anticancerous agent against prostate
“This award gives us an opportunity to study the mechanism of action of this novel drug, which may lead to
the cure of prostate cancer,” said Reddy. “It also will enable us to develop more potent drugs that are targeted
against prostate cancer.”
Reddy will use the award to test the novel drug in preclinical trials. Th e studies will not only explain the
molecular mechanism of activation of the ERG gene in human prostate cancers, but also provide clues for
Reddy and Rao also have identifi ed several other novel drugs that function as targeted therapeutic agents
against a variety of cancers including prostate, pancreatic, ovarian, colorectal and triple negative breast cancer. E. Shyam P. Reddy, Ph.D.
“We take this opportunity to thank the GCC for its support and encouragement. Without the GCC Distinguished Cancer Scholar award, we would not have discovered these novel drugs,” said Reddy. “We are truly grateful to GCC for standing up for our cancer research. Th ese novel targeted therapeutic agents will also help to reduce health disparities seen among minorities, which supports the mission of Morehouse School of Medicine.”
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE SCHOLAR AWARDED $1MILLION NIH GRANT
Atlanta (January 21, 2009) − New therapeutic strategies to target breast cancer − the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women and the second most deadly − are being developed at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) thanks in large part to Ruben Rene Gonzalez-Perez, Ph.D., assistant professor in the MSM Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Immunology. A Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) Distinguished Cancer Scholar, Dr. Gonzalez has been awarded a $1 million grant to continue work on strategies that primarily target postmenopausal and obese women.
The five-year grant was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Obesity has become a pandemic; particularly in western countries. It is characterized by high levels of leptin, an adipocytokine primarily linked to energy balance that also has pro-proliferation, pro-angiogenic, and proinflammatory effects on breast cancer. Higher levels also positively correlate with both the metastasis and lower survival rates of breast cancer patients.
“Despite accumulating evidence suggesting a positive correlation between leptin levels, obesity, postmenopause and breast cancer incidence, our current knowledge on the mechanisms involved in these relationships is still incomplete,” said Gonzalez. “Our continued research will expand our limited knowledge on the roles leptin plays, and could generate essential data for new therapeutic strategies to target breast cancer − particularly for postmenopausal and obese women. Inhibition of leptin signaling in such instances might serve as a preventative or adjuvant measure.”
Gonzalez said this investigation could open new avenues for prevention and/or treatment of breast cancer. “These studies could generate toward a Rapid Access to Intervention Development project (RAID-NIH) for breast cancer prevention, and could be particularly advantageous for those populations at higher risk for breast cancer.”
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE RESEARCHER PICKED FOR BREAST CANCER JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
(Feb 16,2009) Dr. Veena N. Rao, co-director of the Cancer Biology Program and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar at Morehouse School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has been selected to serve on the editorial board of The Open Breast Cancer Journal.
Rao and co-investigators last year used a gene therapy to introduce a protein into triple-negative breast, ovarian and prostate cancers in order to show whether the protein stops tumors from developing.
“Triple negative breast cancers are more common among young African-American and Hispanic women, and currently there are no effective treatments against these cancers,” said Rao, according to a press release. “Results from these studies will provide new treatments in the future for one of the biggest needs in breast cancer research.”
Rao joins The Open Brest Cancer Journal, one of nearly 200 other peer-reviewed open access journals launched by science publisher Bentham. The online publications are free for anyone to view.
“This new online publication is truly international in scale and is free and readily available to a worldwide audience,” according to Rao. “This is an outstanding resource especially for researchers belonging to minority institutions that have limited funding available to subscribe to scientific journals. This access to cancer research information will assist in getting critical and credible preventative and treatment options to millions of people,” she added.
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EMORY ANNOUNCES NEW DIRECTOR OF GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY
ATLANTA (Jan, 2009) - Sharmila Makhija, MD, has joined Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Winship Cancer Institute as director of gynecologic oncology. Makhija comes to Emory from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where she served as associate professor of gynecology/oncology and associate scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Dr. Makhija is a dedicated mentor and teacher as well as an exceptional clinician,” says Sara Berga, MD, chair of Emory’s department of gynecology and obstetrics. “She is internationally recognized for her efforts in cancer prevention. Her arrival augments our ongoing collaborations with the Emory Winship Cancer Institute and expands our portfolio of cutting-edge therapies for women with cancer.”
She is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Clinician and Scholar and currently serves on the National Institutes of Health Clinical Oncology Study Section. Makhija is an active member of the HIV Prevention Trials Network, the International Society of Gynecologic Cancer and serves as an Ovarian Cancer grant reviewer for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Makhija earned her medical degree at UAB, completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky and a fellowship in gynecology oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
“We are very excited to announce Dr. Makhija’s appointment,” says Ira Horowitz, MD, medical director for Emory University Hospital and a gynecologic oncologist. “She is an exceptional and caring physician as well as an innovative and collaborative scientist.”
Brian Leyland-Jones, MD, PhD, director of the Emory Winship Cancer Institute, says that Makhija brings a wealth of experience to an already strong faculty. “Dr. Makhija is a gifted clinician and scientist, and the entire cancer institute will benefit from her presence here,” says Leyland-Jones.
Makhija’s research interests include chemo-resistance in ovarian cancer and the development of novel, targeted therapeutics including monoclonal antibodies and gene therapies for ovarian cancer. Additional research interests include the extension of cervical cancer clinical trials to underserved women, particularly in India, as well as education and participation in the HIV Prevention Trials Network.
She has published numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers and review articles in journals including International Journal of Oncology, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oncogene and Women’s Oncology Review.
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NEW TECHNIQUE IMAGES TUMOR VESSEL LEAKINESS TO PREDICT BREAST CANCER CHEMOTHERAPY OUTCOME
Chemotherapy is an integral part of modern cancer treatment, but it's not always effective. Successful chemotherapy depends on the ability of anticancer drugs to escape from the bloodstream through the leaky blood vessels that often surround tumors.
Predicting chemotherapy's efficacy could save thousands of individuals from unnecessary toxicity and the often difficult side effects of the treatments.
In a study published in the February issue of the journal Radiology, researchers describe a technique for determining the "leakiness" of tumor blood vessels using a simple digital mammography unit. The researchers designed nanometer-sized capsules containing a contrast agent that could only leak into tumors with blood vessels that were growing and therefore leaky. The digital mammography-based quantification of "leakiness" is closely correlated to the ability of a clinically approved chemotherapy agent to enter the tumor, allowing the researchers to predict the agent's therapeutic efficacy.
"We developed a quantitative way to measure the leakiness of the blood vessels, which is directly linked to the amount of drug that gets to the cancer and in turn determines effectiveness," said Ravi Bellamkonda, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. "By simply measuring how much contrast agent reaches the tumor, we can predict how much of a clinically approved chemotherapeutic will reach the tumor, allowing physicians to personalize the dose and predict effectiveness."
In some cases, one chemotherapy drug may not be effective in treating the tumor, but this new technique allows oncologists to investigate other drugs sooner since they know the drug is reaching the tumor. Studies are currently underway to determine if mammography can predict the optimal dose of a wide range of breast cancer chemotherapeutics.
Bellamkonda and Coulter Department postdoctoral fellow Efstathios Karathanasis collaborated on this study with Ioannis Sechopoulos, an assistant professor in radiology at Emory University; Andrew Karellas, a former professor in the Emory University Winship Cancer Institute currently at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; and Ananth Annapragada, an associate professor of health information sciences at the University of Texas, Houston. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation and Georgia Cancer Coalition.
For the study, a long-circulating nanometer-scale liposomal capsule filled with iodinated contrast agent was injected into rats with six-day-old breast cancer tumors. For the next three days, the researchers collected digital mammography images of the animals and compared the pre- and post-injection grayscale intensity values to study the dynamics of how the contrast agent accumulated in the tumor over time.
"During the three-day time course, some tumors exhibited a rapid and significant increase in image brightness, meaning the contrast agent was accumulating in the tumor, whereas other tumors showed a slow and low increase," said Bellamkonda, who is also a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar.
While the brightness of the tumors in the images changed significantly, no variations were observed in non-tumor areas or in the tumors of animals that did not receive the contrast agent. Immediately after the imaging was completed and the leakiness of each individual cancer vessel was quantified, the animals were intravenously injected with a clinically approved chemotherapy drug, liposomal doxorubicin.
Results showed that the chemotherapeutic drug slowed the progress of the tumor. The variability in uptake of the contrast agent by the tumors, as measured during the three-day imaging sessions, provided an accurate prognosis of the effect of liposomal doxorubicin on tumor growth rate.
"When we plotted the post-treatment tumor growth rate versus the intensity of leakiness, there was a significant and strong correlation," noted Bellamkonda. "The tumors in which the nanocarrier leaked out and accumulated the most in the tumors during the initial three-day test were the ones that responded best to the treatment."
To verify that the intensity changes in the images were caused by the nanocarrier and not endogenous changes in the tumor tissue, liposomal probes tagged with a fluorescent dye were injected into the animals. By looking at histological tumor sections, the researchers showed that the location of the increased image brightness and the fluorescent dye were the same.
"This study showed that higher uptake of the probe by the tumor related to leakier vasculature and suggested a better therapeutic outcome of liposomal doxorubicin," said Bellamkonda. "Imaging the integrity of the tumor vasculature like this may allow cancer treatment to be more patient-specific and potentially spare patients from chemotherapy if it is not going to be effective."
While the goal of the study reported in the journal was not to induce tumor regression, the researchers plan to investigate whether the liposomal probes can be used for this purpose in the future. To further develop and commercialize these multi- functional probes, Bellamkonda and Annapragada founded a start-up company called Marval Biosciences, Inc.
The researchers also want to investigate whether the leakiness of tumor vasculature represents a parameter that is useful for clinical diagnosis or tumor characterization.
"We want to study the molecular basis for blood vessel leakiness," said Bellamkonda. "We want to understand why there is variation in leakiness and chemotherapy effectiveness among individuals with tumors of the same type, size and stage."
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TEN YEARS AFTER TOBACCO SETTLEMENT, STATES FALLING SHORT IN FUNDING TOBACCO PREVENTION
WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 -- Ten years after the November 1998 state tobacco settlement, Georgia ranks 50th in the nation in funding programs to protect kids from tobacco, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.
Georgia currently spends $3.2 million a year on tobacco prevention programs, which is 2.7 percent of the $116.5 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other key findings for Georgia include: The tobacco companies spend more than $444 million a year on marketing in Georgia. This is 139 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.Georgia this year will collect $393 million from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than 1 percent of it on tobacco prevention.
The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "A Decade of Broken Promises," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"Georgia is one of the most disappointing states when it comes to funding programs to protect kids from tobacco," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "On this 10th anniversary of the tobacco settlement, we call on Georgia's leaders to raise the state cigarette tax and use some of the new revenue to increase funding for tobacco prevention. Tobacco prevention is a smart investment that reduces smoking, saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."
Georgia's current cigarette tax of 37 cents per pack is 43rd in the nation and well below the national average of $1.19 per pack. Scientific studies have found that increasing cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to prevent kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit.
On Nov. 23, 1998, 46 states settled their lawsuits against the nation's major tobacco companies to recover tobacco-related health care costs, joining four states (Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Minnesota) that had reached earlier settlements. These settlements require the tobacco companies to make annual payments to the states in perpetuity, with total payments estimated at $246 billion over the first 25 years. The states also collect billions of dollars each year in tobacco taxes.
The new report finds that most states have broken their promise to use a significant portion of their tobacco money to fund programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
According to the report, the states in the last 10 years have received $203.5 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. But they have spent only 3.2 percent of this tobacco money - $6.5 billion - on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
Other findings of the report include: In the current year, no state is funding tobacco prevention at CDC-recommended levels, and only nine states fund their programs at even half of the CDC recommendation.41 states and the District of Columbia are funding tobacco prevention programs at less than half the CDC-recommended amount. These include 27 states that are providing less than a quarter of the recommended funding.Total funding for state tobacco prevention programs this year, $718.1 million, amounts to less than three percent of the $24.6 billion the states will collect from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It would take just 15 percent of this tobacco revenue to fund tobacco prevention programs in every state at CDC-recommended levels.
The report warns that the nation faces two immediate challenges in the fight against tobacco use: complacency and looming state budget shortfalls. First, while the nation has made significant progress over the past decade in reducing smoking, progress has slowed and further progress is at risk without aggressive efforts at all levels of government. Second, the states are expected to face budget shortfalls in the coming year as a result of the weak economy. The last time the states faced significant budget shortfalls, they cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by 28 percent between 2002 and 2005. The cutbacks are a major reason why smoking declines subsequently stalled, and states should not make the same mistake again.
The report found that there is more evidence than ever that tobacco prevention programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. Washington State, which has been a national leader in funding tobacco prevention, has reduced smoking by 60 percent among sixth graders and by 43 percent among 12th graders since the late 1990s. A recent study found that California's tobacco control program saved $86 billion in health care costs in its first 15 years, compared to $1.8 billion spent on the program, for a return on investment of nearly 50:1.
In Georgia, 18.6 percent of high school students smoke, and 11,300 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 10,300 lives and costs the state $2.25 billion in health care bills.
More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.
(NOTE: The CDC recently updated its recommended funding for state tobacco prevention programs, taking into account new science, population increases, inflation and other cost factors. In most cases, the new recommendations are higher than previous ones. This report is the first to assess the states based on these new recommendations.)
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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GSU INVESTIGATOR RECEIVES ACS AWARD INVESTIGATING HOW TUMORS PLAY HIDE-AND-SEEK
November 12, 2008
ATLANTA — The body’s immune system is its line of defense against foreign invaders, from viruses to bacteria and tumors. But often tumors find ways to hide from the immune system, making it harder for the body to attack these deadly, swiftly multiplying cells.
Georgia State University’s Susanna Greer, assistant professor of biology and a Georgia Cancer Coalition researcher, received a four-year, $718,000 grant from the American Cancer Society in October to further explore proteins which play a role in allowing the body’s immune system to detect tumors.
Greer, a Georgia Cancer Coalition scientist, examines two proteins called Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) classes 1 and 2, which are in every cell of the body with the exception of red blood cells.
Each plays a similar role in bringing parts of foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria that have made it into the body — tipping off the immune system's response. Class 1 typically alerts the immune system of foreign bodies within the cell, and brings pieces of those invaders to the surface.
By contrast, MHC Class 2 works to let the immune system know of foreign bodies in the spaces between cells.
Once alerted, the immune system starts an inflammatory response to clear out the infection — as it would with any foreign body, Greer explained.
“MHC Class 1 expressed on a tumor cell will alert the immune system that there are things inside that tumor cell that are different," she said. "The immune system doesn’t care, because it just sees those cells as different, and will use the attack mechanism to kill the tumor cell.”
The problem is that tumors are good at turning off these proteins that sound the warning.
The American Cancer Society grant is going toward the investigation of a specific mechanism used to create MHC Class 2. Class 2 alerts the immune system to proteins shed by tumor cells in the space between cells, allowing the immune system to attack tumor cells.
The epigenetic code used to make MHCs proteins is very complex and bound into extremely tight packages within genes. Greer and her lab are exploring how this code is translated to regulate the production of MHC Class 2.
Although MHC proteins play important roles in getting the immune system to respond to foreign invaders, sometimes the problem is not that the proteins are kept off — but stay on, causing autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis where the immune system attacks the central nervous system. So, discoveries made in protein transcription can open up a new way to help treat not just cancer, but other disorders as well.
“The more that we find out about how these proteins are transcribed and translated, in addition to how you can turn on transcription and turn it off, there are some very relevant chemical applications,” Greer said.
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MUMC SCIENTIST AWARDED $50,000 CANCER RESEARCH GRANT
Savannah, DC, November 03, 2008 --(PR.com)-- The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative has awarded a one-year, $50,000 grant to Memorial University Medical Center’s (MUMC) Dominique Broccoli, PhD. The grant will fund Broccoli’s sarcoma cancer research project.
Sarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissues, such as nerves, muscles, or blood vessels. Although rare in adults, it accounts for 15 to 20 percent of all children’s cancers. Sarcoma can occur anywhere in the body and is frequently hidden deep in the limbs. The subject of Broccoli’s research is liposarcoma, one of the most common of all soft-tissue sarcomas.
“This generous grant will allow our liposarcoma research to continue. We hope to identify genes that are useful diagnostic and/or prognostic markers. These markers may predict response to treatment and assist in the search for newer, better sarcoma therapies,” said Broccoli. Broccoli is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar. She leads the cancer biology and genetics program in the William and Iffath Hoskins Center for Biomedical Research at MUMC. Broccoli is also a professor for Mercer University School of Medicine – Savannah Campus.
Bruce and Beverly Shriver, co-founders of the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative, said they are delighted to fund the work of Dr. Broccoli and hope that her results will be stepping-stones to finding a cure for liposarcoma. The grant is dedicated to Rose Burt, a courageous, inspirational, and tireless advocate for sarcoma who had her own 21-year battle with liposarcoma. The funding of this grant is made possible, in part, by a generous gift from Laura Somerville, M.D., Ph.D.
The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative of Ossining, New York, undertakes activities that help improve the quality of life for people dealing with sarcoma. Central to this mission are its goals of increasing public awareness of sarcoma and funding sarcoma-related research through a rigorous peer-review grant application process.
Memorial University Medical Center (MUMC) is a two-state healthcare organization serving a 35-county area in southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina. The system includes its flagship hospital, a 530-bed academic medical center; Memorial primary and specialty care physician networks; a major medical education program; business and industry services; and NurseOne, a 24-hour call center.
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THE FACES BEHIND CANCER STATISTICS
By Laura Raines
Pulse editor, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Ever wonder how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society get their cancer statistics? They come from cancer tumor registrars, who work behind the scenes in hospitals.
They are trained to collect and report timely, accurate and complete data to state and national cancer registries.
“Their work is little-known, but critical,” said Kevin C. Ward, CTR, president of the Georgia Tumor Registrars Association. “Cancer registrars bridge the gap between cancer patients and the many researchers and health professionals who need access to quality cancer data in order to make public health decisions related to cancer research, diagnosis and treatment.”
People come to the job from various backgrounds. Debra Fortier, RHIA, CTR, oncology data center coordinator for Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville, has experience in hospital quality assurance and with medical records.
“I had been a supervisor, manager and then director for a hospital medical records department and needed a change eight years ago,” Fortier said. “I knew of the registry early on in my career and took the job at Gwinnett Medical.”
Fortier and her team review pathology reports, looking for key words that might pertain to cancer. The data is downloaded into a database.
Cancer cases are assigned to a suspense file, where registrars begin collecting data about diagnosis, staging and prescribed treatment. After the tumor has been staged, a registrar will write an abstract to add the case to the cancer registry.
“We use a collaborative stage system that picks up every aspect of a tumor, including its markers, size, lymph node involvement, estrogen-negative or positive receptors, how far it [has] spread and margins,” Fortier said.
The registrars continue to collect information on patients through treatment and followup care for the rest of their lives. Even after death, patients stay on state and national registries.
After staging, registrars write an abstract with all the coded data and question-and-answer notes that include as much demographic and patient history information as possible. Things like a patient’s age, race, family history of cancer, smoking history, treatment outcome and complications are the kind of information researchers and others use to study the disease.
“Seeing clusters of people with the same kind of cancer in one area can help identify and solve problems,” Fortier said.
Gwinnett County, which started its registry in 1989, has almost 20,000 cases in its databank, and the numbers are growing rapidly.
“Our team abstracted 1,500 cases last year,” she said. “The number of cancer patients has doubled in the last 10 years in Gwinnett, because the county is growing. Our job has gotten bigger.”
Fortier submits all abstracts to the state once a month and those go into the National Cancer Registry once a year.
“We are constantly updating the data, and the standards and technology are constantly changing,” she said.
The work is painstaking, detail-oriented and never ending, but Fortier loves it.
“I get to see the big picture of how each abstract feeds into the trends of what we know about cancer and its treatment,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist, but I can see how important it is to code everything correctly. We’re dealing with people’s lives.”
At Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Dolores McCord, RHIT, CTR, manager of oncology analytics, is a certified tumor registrar and a member of the oncology team.
“My job is slightly different, but then there is no such thing as a traditional cancer tumor registrar,” McCord said. “We come from medical records, pathology or administrative backgrounds and we all have different skills and responsibilities within our hospitals.”
McCord makes sure that the hospital is in compliance with reporting standards, and her office coordinates all oncology staff and committee meetings.
“At those meetings, the surgeons, oncologists, diagnostic radiologists and pathologists look at the radiology films and pathology slides that my team gathers to make recommendations about treatments,” McCord said. “Every specialist offers an opinion on each case, because they want to make sure each patient gets the best care for his [or her] circumstances.
“The director of oncology services relies on our data to help him plan oncology research and budget wisely. Are there enough cases to justify a clinical trial, for instance, or enough of one type of cancer to warrant buying new and costly radiation equipment?”
Making data work
Liver cancer is a growing specialty at Piedmont Hospital and the cancer data collected by registrars helps administrators focus on getting the right doctors on the team and providing the proper services.
“We’re now a referral center for liver cancers, because of our data,” McCord said.
McCord has found her spot in the field.
“I’ve worked with the tumor registry since 1989 and I love this work, because I do something slightly different every day,” she said. “I find the disease process interesting and I love statistics, so this is the perfect niche for me.”
When McCord started working on the cancer registry, there wasn’t much official training. She started with a medical records correspondence course, learned on the job and attended workshops.
Today, most cancer registrars have bachelor’s degrees and hold certification through the National Cancer Registrars Association.
It’s a challenge to keep up with the changing rules, standards and technology.
“The registrar’s prayer is, ‘Oh Lord, please let me finish this abstract before they change the rules again,’ ” McCord said with a laugh. “But I like the challenge and I can see how what we do affects what the hospital does.”
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2008 GEORGIA TREND HEALTHCARE HEROES
Meet four Georgia physicians and a hospital administrator who have donated their time and skills to make the state a healthier place.
This year’s Healthcare Heroes can trace to their youth a passion for their professions, and their generous contributions of time and talent have meant better healthcare for their communities, their state, and even the world at large.
Matt Mumber, MD
As long as he can remember, Matt Mumber has been asked to listen to and help others. “When I was very young, people would come to me and tell me their problems,” recalls Mumber, a radiation oncologist at Rome’s Harbin Clinic Radiation Oncology Center. “Once I knew I wanted to become a doctor, I decided I’d probably make a good psychiatrist.”
But, to the gratitude of his patients and cancer researchers everywhere, fate guided Mumber into the study and treatment of cancer. His work in that field has earned him widespread recognition, most recently as the 2008 recipient of the Georgia Cancer Coalition’s Hamilton Jordan Founder’s Award.
Mumber has become the wellspring of the data and details of integrative oncology. He describes the pursuit as “a way of looking at all aspects of a person, not just the physical but also the mental, emotional and spiritual, and also looking at all the aspects of everyone involved in the process – not just the patient, but their family and the physician and the individuals at all levels of their being.”
In 2002, Mumber received a fellowship in an inaugural program for the study of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona. The experience taught him something was missing from the integrative discipline. “It was obvious there weren’t any significant resources, from an academic perspective, on how to incorporate the look at the whole person, to look at the different modalities [and] to address the whole person.” So Mumber assembled 20 contributing writers and published Integrative Oncology: Principles and Practice, a medical textbook.
Mumber was a founder of Cancer Navigators, Inc., a nonprofit that offers cancer patients in three northwest Georgia counties access to supportive services. He also organized a partnership in Floyd County to help develop a statewide evidence-based cancer quality measurement program.
Mumber says his passion for improving care is rooted in the childhood memory of his mother’s struggle with breast cancer. “She’s doing great now,” he says. But at the time “cancer” was a word that was whispered. “I was raised a Catholic, and I guess I always felt like I had a calling to do something in a more counseling or priestly role,” he says.
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THE GARRY BETTY FOUNDATION AND V FOUNDATION ANNOUNCE A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP TRIANGLE
CARY, N.C. – The V Foundation for Cancer Research, one of the nation’s leading cancer research fundraising organizations, is proud to announce a partnership with The Garry Betty Foundation. The organizations are joining forces to raise funds throughout the United States to benefit cutting-edge cancer research opportunities.
“In the last few years, The V Foundation has placed an increased emphasis on identifying organizations with which we can collaborate in funding research projects,” says Nick Valvano, CEO of The V Foundation. “By combining the efforts of two organizations who share the same mission, such as The V Foundation and The Garry Betty Foundation, we have developed a powerful synergy in achieving our common goal.”
The Garry Betty Foundation was founded by Garry Betty, who served as president and CEO of EarthLink from 1996 to 2007 and transformed if from a small regional internet service provider (ISP) with fewer than 100,000 customers to a national brand with more than five million subscribers. Garry was a leader in the Atlanta business community as well as the international technology community. Betty passed away in early 2007, just a short time after he was diagnosed with cancer, but was successful in establishing The Garry Betty Foundation to share his experience with the illness and further research to find a cure for the disease.
“We are extremely pleased to join forces with the V Foundation to fight this terrible disease” say Kathy Betty, Garry’s widow and CEO of The Garry Betty Foundation. “Garry never met Jimmy Valvano but he loved ACC basketball and admired Jimmy for his success at North Carolina State. He attended some of the V Foundation events prior to his diagnosis and believed in the important work they were doing”. Continues Betty, “Garry started his foundation to find a cure for cancer and I know he would be very excited about this partnership and the power of leverage between the organizations”.
The first initiative of this collaboration is working with the Georgia Cancer Coalition to fund The Gary Betty/V Foundation Chair of Cancer Nanotechnology position at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. All research grants funded by this effort will be named the Gary Betty/V Foundation Research Grant.
“This innovative approach to fighting cancer by funding leading-edge cancer research is one of the most creative I have ever seen,” said William J. Todd, President and CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. “The Garry Betty Foundation and the V Foundation should both be very proud of the good stewardship of precious funds that they have shown by leveraging their investments in such a novel way.The Georgia Cancer Coalition is pleased to be a party to this effort to support promising cancer nanotechnology research at Georgia Tech by bringing our $1.75 million to the table to build a research team of real significance. This is multi-party collaboration with a united vision at its very best,”
The V Foundation will provide marketing, administrative, and scientific support for The Garry Betty Foundation. The two organizations will collaborate to raise money for cancer research focused on finding meaningful cures and supporting individuals and families who are stricken with the disease.
For more information about The Garry Betty Foundation, log on to www.thegarrybettyfoundation.org. For more information about The V Foundation for Cancer Research, log on to www.jimmyv.org or call 1-800-4JimmyV.
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UGA WINS $9.2 MILLION NCI STEM CELL GRANT
Aug 4, 2008, Athens, Ga. – A research group led by Stephen Dalton, professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar of Molecular Biology at the University of Georgia, has been awarded $9.2 million as part of a major new research grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Dalton’s group, headquartered in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, will address the molecular underpinnings of the early steps that stem cells take in becoming specialized cell types. The scientists will also seek to identify the genetic and protein modification patterns that accompany this process of differentiation.
The new grant in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences is part of $27 million in funding awarded to the University of Wisconsin, UCLA and UGA that NIGMS has added to its ongoing effort to uncover the basic biology of human embryonic stem cells.
“Our program will offer training for scientists seeking to gain expertise in the specialized techniques needed to work with embryonic stem cells and will serve as a source of reagents, technical support and methodology development,” said Dalton, who is also a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar and a member of UGA’s developmental biology program.
The results of all three new programs are expected to deepen existing knowledge of the unique properties of stem cells and will be important to researchers trying to develop stem-cell-based therapies.
“This program project grant is important for a number of reasons,” said David Lee, UGA vice president for research. “Certainly it highlights the expertise in stem cell biology and glycomics at the University of Georgia. But perhaps more important, it is cleverly designed to promote stem cell research throughout the Southeast. One of the core facilities funded by the grant is specifically tasked with developing new stem cell technologies that will be disseminated to researchers across the region via the new Southeast Stem Cell Consortium, which Professor Dalton chairs. We are extremely pleased by the leadership provided by Dr. Dalton in an area that offers so much promise for human health.”
Dalton’s position as a leader in stem-cell research has been solidified with the recent establishment of the Southeast Stem Cell Consortium. The consortium has strong interests in the basic biology of stem cells, their utility as a model for studying mammalian development and their potential as a cell source to develop therapies for degenerative disease and repair of chronic injury. Focus areas include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, spinal cord injury and neurodegenerative disease.
“This is an innovative program that focuses on an understudied area of stem cell biology,” said Marion Zatz, Ph.D., who oversees stem cell grants at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. “By looking at how proteins are modified by sugar molecules as stem cells differentiate, Dalton’s team could help us understand how the many distinct cell types in our bodies are formed.”
Dalton’s research group at UGA focuses on the uses of stem cells in understanding diabetes and cardiovascular disease. One current project involves finding ways to use stem cells to repair the human heart.
“The heart is an organ that doesn’t repair itself,” said Dalton. “But we’re studying a resident population of stem cells that have the capability of dividing and turning into cardiac cells. Theoretically, they could be used to help the heart repair itself after a heart attack.”
The new programs join an NIGMS effort launched in 2003 to explore the basic molecular and genetic features of human embryonic stem cells. Prior to the latest awards, the initiative has included six exploratory centers, two multidisciplinary research programs and several independent research projects and supplements.
To learn more about the Southeast Stem Cell Consortium see http://www.sestemcells.uga.edu/.
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