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December 8, 2013 - 11:31am | 36°F
Basic science programs contribute to comprehensive care at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center. The mission of the scientific programs in the Division of Basic and Translational Research is to increase our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate cancer formation and progression, and to develop novel techniques to detect and treat cancer. Four scientific programs that facilitate patient care at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center are the Program in Tumor Virology, the Program in Cancer Cell Biology, the Program in Translational Research and the Innovative North Louisiana Experimental Therapeutics (INLET) Program.
Program in Tumor Virology
The Program in Tumor Virology seeks to increase understanding of the roles played by oncogenic viruses in tumor development, thus stimulating novel approaches to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cures for cancer. This program that is funded in part by a large programmatic federal grant includes both basic and physician scientists. The group studies herpesviruses such as cytomegalovirus and the Epstein Barr Virus, which is causally associated with lymphomas, gastric carcinomas, and head and neck cancers, as well as small DNA tumor viruses such as polyoma and human papilloma viruses, which are responsible for cervical and anogenital cancers and head and neck cancers.
Protein Synthesis and Cancer Focus Group
The Protein Synthesis and Cancer group explores the role of translation in regulating tumor progression. This group studies the mechanism and regulation of protein synthesis in eukaryotic cells, with particular emphasis on how dysregulation of protein synthesis can lead to malignant transformation and progression to more aggressive forms of cell growth and invasion. Members of this group are investigating the structure and function of translational machinery that might contribute to the cancer development and progression, such as:
The goal of this focus group is to better understand how cancer cells become active and how to interfere with that process, which will lead to more specific treatment modalities.
Epigenetic Regulation of Gene Expression and DNA Repair in Cancer Focus Group
The common thread of this group is their conviction that chromatin - with its dynamic regulation and virtually limitless epigenetic complexity - significantly impacts gene transcription and DNA repair in cancer cells, thereby promoting cellular proliferation, invasiveness and metastasis characteristic of the malignant state. In this regard, two labs (Bodily and Scott) are seeking to understand how human tumor viruses (Epstein Barr virus and papillomaviruses) induce epigenetic alterations to their own genomes as well as those of host cells. Such epigenetic modifications may regulate the expression of genes central to the viral lifecycle and ultiimately, to the oncogenic state of the infected cells.
Two other labs (Pruitt and Gross) are investigating the role of chromatin in the regulation of transcription, with particular focus on the Cyp19A1 gene that encodes the protein aromatase that directly contributes to the malignancy of the majority of breast cancers. This research is conducted on a eukaryotic model of HSF1-regulated genes whose counterpart in human cancers is driven by a trascriptional program disctinct from heat shock to support the highly malignant state. In addition, reserach about the way gene activation occurs in silent heterochromatin may provide insight into strategies for reactivation of tumor suppressor genes inappropriately silenced by heterochromatin.
Finally, two other labs (De Benedetti and Harrison) study the role of chromatin and epigenetic modification in regulating the repair of double-stranded DNA breaks. One lab uses a noval episomal system in mammalian cells that permits purification of minichromosomes undergoing double-strand DNA repair for detailed chemical bioanalysis. The other lab studies double-stranded DNA breaks in human mitochondrial DNA whose chromatin structure and epigenetic character are very poorly understood.
Two focus groups in the Program in Translational Research comprise a mix of basic and clinical scientists who apply their combined skills to do bench to bedside to bench research. This research paradigm has the greatest probability of generating new therapeutic approaches in the treatment of cancer. Research efforts include investigator initiated clinical trials.
The Urologic Cancer Focus Group brings together a group of clinicians and scientists whose practice or research interest is focused on urologic malignancies, including prostate, bladder or ovarian cancer. The mission of this group is to share agents and resources to facilitate ongoing research projects, to facilitate community outreach and education, and to provide an interdisciplinary working group to formulate new approaches to diagnosis and treatment of these cancers.
The Breast Cancer Focus Group is a multidisciplinary group of researchers from the clinical and basic sciences, formed with a common interest in and a desire to tackle the fundamental biological and clinical questions related to prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
Innovative North Louisiana Experimental Therapeutics (INLET)
INLET is a multi-institutional program focused on the discovery and development of a wide range of drugs that affect multiple diseases in humans, including cancer, diabetes, fungal infection and neurological disorders. The long range goal is to commercialize drugs to treat human disease and increase economic development along the I-20 corridor. INLET members at different locations bring expertise about assay development, screening, drug design and delivery, a variety of in vitro and in vivo models of cancer, pharmacology and toxicology, as well as early clinical development strategies for the discovery of new small molecule therapies. The INLET screening center is equipped with liquid handlers, robotic screening devices and high content, real time screening/assay platforms (Cellomics and the Essen Bioscience Incucyte). Research performed at this screening center includes independent research, federally-supported research and company-sponsored research programs. INLET is developing partnerships with several academic institutions, business experts and pharmaceutical companies to aid in moving drugs from the discovery phase through commercialization.
Feist-Weiller Cancer Center • 1501 Kings Highway • Shreveport, LA 71103
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