Vol. 12 No. 1 - August, 2009

Cancer Center receives ACS Grant for careers in cancer research

Recognizing exceptional contributions in cancer research and a nurturing environment for young investigators, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has again awarded the UMass Memorial Cancer Center a three-year, $360,000 Institutional Research Grant. This prestigious grant, administered by Gary S. Stein, PhD, the Gerald L. Haidak and Zelda S. Haidak Chair in Cell Biology and Cancer Center Interim Director, and Dario C. Altieri, MD, the Eleanor Eustis Farrington Chair in Cancer Research, provides funding to investigators at the early stages of their careers to initiate programs in cancer research. Each year, UMMS will distribute $120,000 from the ACS grant to investigators—up to $30,000 each—on the UMass Worcester and Amherst campuses.

In the current funding climate, American Cancer Society support for young investigators is a decisive factor for establishing careers in cancer research, according to Drs. Stein and Altieri. “We appreciate that the American Cancer Society recognizes our Cancer Center commitment to develop cancer research programs that focus on fundamental regulatory mechanisms in tumor cells and clinical research where errors in biological control provide a platform for new dimensions to cancer diagnosis and therapy. The support from this grant for research that focuses on cancer prevention and control, as well as on psychosocial, behavioral and health outcomes and standards of care research, is critical to enhancing our capacity to treat cancer patients,” they said, adding, “Studies pursued under this program are leading to improvement of quality of life for cancer patients and their families and friends."

This year four investigators at UMass Worcester and one at UMass Amherst each received $24,000 from the ACS Institutional Research Grant. They are:

  • Hira Lal Goel, PhD, research assistant professor of cancer biology and radiation oncology, for investigating the role of cell adhesion to regulation of genes in prostate tumors;
  • Junhao Mao, PhD, assistant professor of cancer biology, for identifying genes that are associated with rhabdomyosarcoma a highly malignant childhood tumor that is difficult to treat with conventional therapy;
  • Seema Paliwal, PhD, instructor in cancer biology, for exploring genes that are expressed in pancreatic cancer as a basis for new dimensions to treating a tumor that is difficult to diagnose at the initial stages;
  • Sayyed Kaleem Zaidi, PhD, instructor in cell biology, for examining microRNAs, small molecules that block expression of genes, during the onset and progression of leukemia; and 
  • Katherine Reeves, PhD, assistant professor of public health at UMass Amherst, for her research focusing on the relationship between weight loss and changes in breast density that is observed in mammogram images.

An announcement about 2010 grant applications will be made in the fall.

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