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Health Center Today, November 15, 2010

Department of Public Health Awards $2M to Fund Research into Tobacco-Related Illnesses

By Carolyn Pennington

The Connecticut Department of Public Health recently announced the recipients of the 2010 Biomedical Trust Fund awards. A total of $2,327,305 was awarded this year to eight research projects. Six of those projects are being conducted by UConn researchers.

Since the legislation creating the Biomedical Trust Fund was first introduced by Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-Woodbridge) in 2005, nearly $10,061,324 has been awarded to Connecticut research institutions for the purposes of biomedical research into tobacco-related illnesses. The fund uses a portion of the tobacco settlement money to provide funding for research efforts to help fight cancer, heart disease, and other diseases linked to smoking.

Dr. Richard Everson, deputy director for cancer prevention and control in the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, is one of the award recipients. "In clinical practice worldwide, when cancers are removed at surgery they are fixed-in-formalin, and embedded in paraffin – FFPE. We are developing and proving technology that lets us obtain the sequence from the standard clinical FFPE preparations. Using these tissues will dramatically simplify the logistics for obtaining critical cancer sequences for all tumors. And it opens up for study the thousands/millions of tumor specimens now stored in hospital pathology centers worldwide. So thanks to DPH’s sponsorship, our grant, focused on sequencing the FFPE specimens, should contribute to speeding our understanding of the 20,000 cancers diagnosed each year in our state."

Below is a summary of the awards.

Dr. Laijun Lai of the UConn Health Center was awarded $439,243 to conduct preclinical studies in mice to determine whether the induction of tumor-specific immunity to melanoma and colon cancer by rIL-7/HBFβ protein can protect against established and recurrent tumors, whether immune cells other than T cells and dendritic cells may be involved, and whether a newly developed human form of rIL-7.

Joel Pachter of the UConn Health Center was awarded $246,290 to determine how cigarette smoking affects the brain’s ability to sustain its blood vessel supply in the context of normal aging.

Quing Zhu of the University of Connecticut was awarded $309,625 to develop a novel hypoxia probe and the associated imaging hardware for directly mapping tumor hypoxia of preclinical tumor models in mice.

Dr. Richard Everson of the UConn Health Center was awarded $283,934 to demonstrate the extent that comprehensive genomic analyses of clinical specimens, which as the formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues that would be available through a statewide biobank, can be conducted successfully and can provide molecular data similar to that provided by cryopreserved tissues now widely used for genomic research.

Kimberly Dodge-Kafka of the UConn Health Center was awarded $245,885 to identify and define a novel signaling complex in the heart, as well as target this complex for the treatment of the failing heart myocyte.

Richard Bruno of the University of Connecticut was awarded $303,190 to decrease cardiovascular disease risk by identifying how smoking cessation improves vascular function and defining gamma-tocopherol as a novel co-therapy that enable smoking cessation to more fully restored vascular function.