Jenny Twesten

The application cycle for Prevent Cancer Foundation’s 2013 Research Grant and Fellowship Program just closed, and, while we gear up to review these new applications, we thought we’d check in with our 2012 awardees and see how they’re doing in their first year of research!

For those unfamiliar with our grant and fellowship program, we awarded seven researchers from across the country with two years of funding to conduct research using innovative technology and fresh approaches to cancer prevention. We asked them to share how receiving funding from the Prevent Cancer Foundation is helping to learn more about the prevention and early detection of cancer. Here’s a look at their progress on our quest to Stop Cancer Before It Starts!

W. Martin KastW. Martin Kast, PhD, University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
Named Award: Genentech Research Award in Ovarian Cancer
What He’s Studying: Ovarian cancer biomarkers for early stage detection

“We are exploring and developing a blood test that could diagnose early stages of ovarian cancer, which ranks fifth in causes of cancer-related deaths in women. We are preparing to do the testing of Sp17 as a biomarker for early stage ovarian cancer in blood samples from ovarian cancer patients diagnosed at different stages of disease.”

Joel MasonJoel Mason, MD, Tufts University
Named Award: Marvin M. Davis Research Award in Colorectal Cancer
What He’s Studying: Obesity and colorectal cancer risk

“My efforts in cancer and nutrition research represent a new avenue of research for me from B vitamins to obesity. We are now studying the mechanisms by which obesity enhances cancer risk.”

Ligi PaulLigi Paul, PhD, Tufts University
Named Award: Holden Family Research Award in Breast Cancer
What She’s Studying: Genetic variations in use of the body’s folic acid and its relationship to breast cancer

“A common variation in the gene responsible for the conversion of synthetic folate to biological folate increases cancer risk in multivitamin users. I am in the process of recruiting volunteers to participate in a study that will investigate how this genetic variation increases cancer risk and how the risk might be alleviated.”

Susan SteckSusan Steck, PhD, University of South Carolina
Named Award: Prevent Cancer Foundation – Living in Pink Grant
What She’s Studying: Dietary inflammatory index and risk of breast and colorectal cancer

“We are examining whether a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Ultimately, we anticipate that our results will have a large public health impact by providing support for the design and implementation of behavior modification strategies to prevent breast and colorectal cancers through dietary changes.”

Meredith TennisMeredith Tennis, PhD, University of Colorado
What She’s Studying: Genetic markers and lung cancer chemoprevention

“In previous work, we had identified a genetic marker that may predict who will respond to lung cancer chemoprevention. Today, we have verified that this marker is decreased in lung cells exposed to carcinogens in cigarette smoke, and we are now optimizing tests to measure the marker in patient samples from a successful lung cancer chemoprevention trial. This work could have a significant impact on preventing disease in people with an increased risk of lung cancer.”

Sharon PineSharon Pine, PhD, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Named Award: The Richard C. Devereaux Outstanding Young Investigator Award in Lung Cancer Prevention
What She’s Studying: Biomarkers to predict lung cancer risk

“Our long-term goal is to identify former, current and non-smokers who would benefit from lung cancer screening in order to detect cancer earlier when it is easier to treat. We also aim to identify current smokers who are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer and steer them toward quitting smoking. To date, we have received over 1,000 DNA samples from people with lung cancer and healthy controls as well. We are now in the process of testing the DNA samples for presence of the genetic biomarkers.”

Josane SousaJosane Sousa, PhD, Vanderbilt University
Named Award: Speed Demos Archive Research Fellowship in Gastric Cancer
What She’s Studying: Non-invasive screening for gastric cancer

“Currently, there are no effective screening tests available for gastric cancer with the exception of an invasive procedure (direct upper endoscopy). Our work using serum detected microRNAs has the potential to produce results that will lead to the future development of an effective non-invasive screening test to identify patients at risk for gastric cancer.”