July 5, 2007

CIHR Awards Two Research Grants to Investigators from the UBC Department of Dermatology and Skin Science and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute to Study Skin Cancer.

Vancouver, B.C. - July 5, 2007 - Dr. Youwen Zhou and Dr. Gang Li of the UBC Department of Dermatology and Skin Science have been awarded three year grants to pursue two unique streams of cancer research from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Dr. Youwen Zhou has received a three year grant to study Alpha-1 antichymotrypsin as A prognostic marker for malignant melanoma.
 
Malignant melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancers. Although most patients with early melanoma can be cured by surgical removal, a significant proportion of the patients die of disease due to melanoma cells spreading to vital organs. Since the chance of a particular patient to survive can not be precisely predicted at present, new and improved methods are needed to accomplish this task in order to improve treatment and monitoring of the patients. In the proposed research, the team plans to test the possibility of using alpha-1 antichymotrypsin, a new marker protein recently identified in our laboratory from metastatic melanoma cells, to improve risk prediction. Early results indicated that high levels of this protein in tumor biopsies are associated with worse prognosis. In the new research Dr. Zhou will expand the study to test tumor biopsies as well as blood samples from a much larger number of patients to confirm the clinical utility of this protein as a prognostic marker for melanoma.

Dr. Gang Li has received a three year grant to study the functional analysis of the tumor suppressor ING1b Ser126 phosphorylation.
 
Cancer is a life-threatening disease which affects many Canadians every year. In Canada, it is estimated that 153,100 new cases and 70,400 deaths from cancer occur in 2006. Therefore, understanding of the molecular changes in cancer development is essential for designing more effective strategies for cancer prevention and treatment. In the past few years, studies on the biological functions of the tumor suppressor ING1b have attracted much attention in the scientific community. Dr Gang Li and his team have found that ING1b can enhance DNA repair and promote programmed cell death. However, information on the regulation of ING1b expression and its activity is lacking. Recently, they have discovered that ING1b is phosphorylated at serine 126. Furthermore, the team found that serine 126 phosphorylation is essential for ING1b protein stability. In this research, Dr. Zhou will investigate in detail how Ser126 phosphorylation of ING1b regulates the biological functions of this tumor suppressor and characterize the downstream effectors. This project will provide new insights into the mechanisms on the regulation of ING1b activity, its biological functions, and the signaling pathways, which may lead to novel strategies for cancer prevention and treatment.

More information:

  • CIHR (Canadian Insitutes of Health Research) is Canada's premiere health research funding agency.
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