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American Cancer Society Increases Funding to $5.5 Million for Illinois Researchers

ACS

Illinois scientists at the forefront of cancer research will receive more than $5.5 million from the Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society this year. This is the organization’s largest annual commitment to local cancer research since it began making grants in 1952 and twice the amount of last year’s research commitment of $2.4 million.

From this year’s funding, $4 million will go toward basic science research and $1.5 million will fund research on cancer disparities. The additional money will allow approximately 30 young investigators to support their novel ideas for cancer prevention, detection and treatment at Illinois research institutions. The funding was approved by the Society’s Board of Directors recently and is made possible by Society donors and event participants in Illinois who fund all its work.

“We are proud of the Illinois scientists whose cancer-fighting studies we support through our research grant program and grateful for the remarkable generosity of our donors who fund our mission,” said Katherine L. Griem, M.D., president of the American Cancer Society’s Illinois Division.

In the past 60 years, the Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society has provided 979 research grants to cancer investigators pursuing bold new ideas in prevention, detection and treatment, for a total of nearly $38 million. Each grant application received by the Division undergoes a rigorous review by senior cancer investigators. Approximately 75 percent of the Division’s grantees go on to receive national-level funding for their research.

The Illinois Division’s research program expands upon the impact of the Society’s national commitment to cancer research. The Society is the largest non-government, not-for-profit funding source of cancer research in the United States. Since 1946, the national organization has invested more than $3.6 billion in cancer research and has funded 46 researchers who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. More than $22 million of Society research grants funding 67 different research projects at 12 Illinois institutions are now underway.

“Every new finding gives us hope for improved ways to detect cancer early and for powerful new treatments that target malignancies, while assuring a better quality of life for all cancer patients,” said K. Thomas Robbins, M.D., chair of the Illinois Division’s research advisory committee. “It’s all part of our comprehensive commitment to save lives.”
Highlights of some of the most recent Illinois Division grants include:
· Joanna Burdette, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois, Chicago, has received a grant to study the cellular origins of ovarian cancer. Using three-dimensional cell cultures she developed in her laboratory, Dr. Burdette is investigating how cells become cancerous and whether hormones linked to ovulation play a role in the development of cancer.
· Regan J. Thomas, Ph.D., of Northwestern University, has received a grant to investigate the development of new cancer medications with less toxic side effects. Traditional cancer drugs are based on structurally simple compounds with a high level of activity but a low level of selectivity, leading to dangerous side effects. Dr. Thompson is working to develop a series of structurally-complex candidate drugs based upon plan compounds, with higher levels of selectivity and less unintended toxicity in patients.
· Peifing Li, M.D., Ph.D., the University of Illinois, Chicago, has received a grant to study the ways in which tumor cells, particularly stomach and ovarian tumors, develop resistance to certain chemotherapies. One way cancer cells become resistant is by blocking a process of induced cell death called apoptosis. Dr. Li is focusing on a protein called ARC that provides apoptosis resistance and is abundant in many cancer cells. His work could potentially lead to new ways to regulate the expression of ARC, which could block resistance and make tumor cells more sensitive to chemotherapy treatments.
· David Everly, Ph.D. of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, has received a grant to study how proteins that make up the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) lead to the growth and survival of cancer cells. Approximately 20 percent of cancers worldwide are associated with bacterial and viral infectious agents. EBV was the first virus to be associated with human cancer more than 40 years ago. Insights from Dr. Everly’s research will potentially lead to new and novel therapeutic strategies to treat EBV-associated cancers.

“Our investigators feel a special bond with the Society,” said Steven T. Rosen, M.D., FACP, director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University and a member of the Illinois Division’s Cancer Center Directors Committee. “We are grateful for the partnership that works on so many levels to support our research and the well-being of the cancer patients we serve.”

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