2008 Mesothelioma Research Grant Awards

H. Richard Alexander, MD
University of Maryland

Title: Inhibition of Il-1 as a Novel Target in Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Description: Dr. Alexander’s lab has identified that genes in the Interleukin -1 pathway are over-expressed and associated with a poor prognosis in peritoneal mesothelioma. His project seeks to inhibit malignant mesothelioma tumor growth by targeting this pathway. If the project succeeds in the laboratory, we envision that this will lead to new targeted therapy for those tumors that over express Interleukin-1. What makes this particularly exciting is that there is already an FDA-approved agent that targets Interleukin-1, which would mean that we could move from the “bench to the bedside” in a relatively short period of time.

Gang Logan Liu, PhD
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Title: Enhanced Diagnostic Imaging and High Precision Gene Therapy of Mesothelioma Using Nontoxic Nanocarriers

Description: Dr. Liu proposes a new method to improve mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment efficacy using nontoxic multifunctional nanocarriers. The nanocarrier particles can be designed to only be taken up by mesothelioma tumor cells. This will enhance radiographic imaging for diagnosis and monitoring. Moreover, they can carry therapeutic genes and can release them only in mesothelioma tumors and at desired moments via remote activation. This could prove very important in mesothelioma as conventional radiation and chemotoxic therapies often have lethal side effects to normal tissue and/or lose effectiveness because of non-localized and uncontrollable dosage administration. Dr. Liu’s method would deliver the therapies directly into the tumor, thus sparing healthy tissue.

Steven Mutsaers, MD, PhD
Lung Institute of Western Australia

Title: The Hedgehog Signaling Pathway As A Target For Inhibiting Malignant Mesothelioma Growth

Description: Increasing evidence points to the reactivation and aberrant expression of developmental signaling pathways as critical to the development of certain cancers. The hedgehog signaling pathway has been shown to be a critical target in other cancers and there are drugs being tested to target this pathway. Dr. Mutsaers will seek to prove that the hedgehog signaling pathway regulates mesothelioma and that blocking this pathway results in inhibiting tumor growth. If he succeeds, then drugs targeting this pathway could rapidly move into clinical trials for mesothelioma patients.

Joseph Testa, PhD
Fox Chase Cancer Center

Title: Combinatorial Targeting of Tyrosine Kinases that are Aberrantly Activated in Malignant Mesothelioma

Description: Dr. Testa’s lab recently identified a novel family of cellular enzymes (chemicals in cells that catalyze or speed up biologic activity) often over-activated in mesothelioma cells. These enzymes promote tumor cell survival and drug resistance, making them potential therapeutic targets. Dr. Testa will test if combination therapies targeting more than one of these enzymes enhance mesothelioma cell death and tumor regression. He will test tyrosine-kinase inhibitors which, as targeted agents, should have less toxic side effects than traditional chemotherapeutic agents.

Haining Yang, PhD
University of Hawaii

Title: Studies of Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha as a New Target for Human Malignant Mesothelioma Prevention and Therapeutic Strategies

Description: Dr. Yang’s lab has discovered that TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor alpha) plays a critical role in the mechanisms of asbestos-induced malignant mesothelioma. TNF-a increases the percentage of primary human mesothelioma cells that – when damaged by exposure to asbestos – nevertheless avoid necrosis and survive. TNF-a thus results in an increase of asbestos-damaged cells susceptible to malignant transformation. Dr. Yang’s lab will now explore TNF-a as a potential target to prevent the development of mesothelioma in asbestos-exposed tissue, and to treat mesothelioma tumors.




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