Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Miller School Scientists Awarded Millions in State Research Grants

06.16.2010

The battle against cancer being waged in numerous Miller School labs is getting a $12 million boost from the Florida Department of Health’s Biomedical Research Program grants supporting research in cancer and tobacco-related diseases. Twenty-three UM and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers collectively won about 27.5 percent – the largest share – of the $45.5 million in grants awarded through the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program and the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program.

The amount is almost double the more than $6.5 million UM and Sylvester researchers were awarded last year from the highly competitive grant programs. David Lee, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and public health and member of the Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Program at Sylvester, was awarded grants in both categories.

“These Florida grant programs play a critical role in supporting new investigators and provide key support for the early stage of new research ideas,’‘ said Richard Bookman, Ph.D., vice provost for research and executive dean for research and research training. “UM’s scientists once again showed their competitive strength and this support will help them compete for even larger federal grants. Such research will ultimately benefit our patients.” Administered by the state Office of Public Health Research, the James and Esther King program supports research for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and/or cure of tobacco-related diseases. The Bankhead-Coley program promotes initiatives that can drastically reduce the state’s inordinately high cancer burden, and stimulate economic development, particularly in the biotechnology industry. Statewide, 73 of the 332 proposals submitted from 22 universities and research institutes were selected for funding.

“We are grateful for the funding from the Bankhead-Coley Program, and are very optimistic that this research will lead to novel clinical trials for cancer patients in South Florida,” said one UM grantee, Krishna V. Komanduri, M.D., Kalish Family Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, director of the Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program at Sylvester and associate director of translational research at the Miami Transplant Institute.

Komanduri says his $1.2 million grant, for a joint effort that includes Ian McNeice, Ph.D., director of the experimental and clinical cell-based therapies program at the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, and Eric Wieder, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, will fund collaborative studies between the Komanduri and McNiece labs, to improve cord blood transplantation in adults through graft engineering.

Specifically, the researchers will study novel approaches to isolate and expand components of cord blood products to improve recovery of healthy cells in transplant recipients. The goal is to decrease the rates of transplant complications in patients who suffer from leukemia, lymphoma and other diseases curable by bone marrow or cell transplantation, but lack a donor.

Among the dozen UM faculty members awarded James and Esther King grants, is Ana M. Palacio M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine. Palacio’s project will compare the effectiveness of telephone-based behavioral intervention to usual care at improving 18-month adherence to newly prescribed lipid-lowering medications among insured racial and ethnic minorities with cardiovascular risk factors. These medications, in particular those commonly known as statins, can significantly reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events but are underused among racial and ethnic minorities.

“I am very grateful to the James and Esther King Program for supporting the work that the Division of General Internal Medicine is undertaking to reduce health disparities in our communities,” said Palacio whose grant is for $1.2 million over five years. “Finding cost-effective strategies that can improve the adherence to this important class of medications among minority groups in Florida is an important step towards the reduction of health disparities in cardiovascular care and outcomes.”

Other UM grantees include Cameron Dezfulian, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care, who received a “new investigator” James and Esther King grant for $345,000 over three years. Dezfulian, who is researching neuroprotection after cardiac arrest, uses nitrite therapy, believed to operate through nitric oxide-based signaling, to reduce neuronal cell death.

“As a new investigator, it’s a big lift when you finally get your first award. Hopefully, this is just the beginning,” Dezfulian said.

Other UM faculty receiving Bankhead-Coley grants are: Elizabeth Franzmann, M.D., $1.2 million; Jennifer Hu, Ph.D., $1.2 million; David Lee, Ph.D., $719,998; Shunbin Ning, Ph.D., $399,998; Seigo Nishida, M.D., Ph.D., $719,927; Alan Pollack, M.D., Ph.D., $1.2 million; Taylor Schreiber, Ph.D., $51,850; Renaud Sicard, Ph.D., $56,550; Jean Wright, M.D., $400,000; and Ling Yin, Ph.D., $159,750.

Additional James and Esther King grantees are: David Dweck, Ph.D., $107,900; Leonidas Koniaris, M.D., $1.2 million; David Lee, Ph.D., $716,672; Qiongzhen Li, M.D., Ph.D., $56,550; Hung Wen Lin, Ph.D., $111,300; Jose Pinto, Ph.D., $399,258; Erika Rangel, M.D., Ph.D., $111,300; Liyong Wang, Ph.D., $400,000; Yuhui Wen, Ph.D., $164,450; Karen Young, M.D., $400,000.

The Miller School’s Awtar Ganju-Krishan, Ph.D., also was awarded a $100,000 Technology Transfer/Commercialization Partnership grant. All awards are effective July 1.

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