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Penn's Perelman School Reels in $7.3M for Esophageal Cancer Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has received a $7.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for three research projects targeting genes and proteins involved in of esophageal cancer.

The grant renews an NCI-funded program at the Perelman school that has been ongoing for 10 years, and is the only program of its kind that NCI supports that is focused on finding treatments and biomarkers for esophageal cancer, the medical school said today.

The renewal funding builds on successes Perelman researchers have had identifying genes linked with clinical outcomes, and generating three-dimensional organ-like culture models and mouse models, Perelman Professor and principal investigator Anil Rustgi said in a statement. "We have several candidate genes and pathways that serve as new and innovative targets for esophageal cancer, which we believe have implications in head and neck cancer as well as lung cancer," he added.

Rustgi will lead one project that examines the biological roles of cooperation between tumor suppressor genes and p120-catenin in the formation of esophageal tumor cells, and of the interplay between these tumor cells and other proteins in the tumor.

In another project, investigators at Perelman and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will study genes encoding ERBB-family kinase proteins and cell-cycle mediators in esophageal cancer. The findings may lead to biomarkers that can be used to guide the use of targeted inhibitors and to test therapeutics in genomically defined models for identifying optimal treatment agents and combinations of targeted agents.

Perelman researchers will study how the protein cyclin D1 is regulated and defines the role of Fbx4 mutations in the initiation of esophageal cancer. The findings from this project will be developed into therapies that target cyclin D1/CDK4 kinase and other downstream molecules, Perelman said.

These three projects are supported by core facilities designed to provide esophageal cancer-specific services.