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DOD funds breast cancer research (1-29-01)

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in January awarded $1.8 million for six breast cancer projects at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The projects are in the university’s department of molecular medicine and are conducted at the Institute of Biotechnology, a research facility in the Texas Research Park.

The group at the Institute of Biotechnology has become known worldwide for its research on human breast cancer. "Many of these projects are aimed at understanding the genes that are frequently mutated in breast cancer and the proteins that interact with these gene products," explained P. Renee Yew, Ph.D., one of the DOD grant recipients. She noted that mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 (Breast Cancer Susceptibility Genes 1 and 2) are associated with about 80 percent of all cases of familial breast cancer.

"The IBT allows us to collaborate on research targeting human disease, specifically breast cancer," she said. "A disruption of many different cellular processes, such as DNA repair, cell cycle regulation and checkpoint control, can contribute to the cancerous state. Our studies focus on these processes, in addition to less well-characterized processes such as protein degradation, in order to understand how breast cancer develops. We hope that these studies will lead to novel treatments and prevention strategies for breast cancer in the future."

The Department of Defense funds several areas of medical investigation. The Health Science Center is the recipient of other DOD funds for projects including Dr. Gregory Freeman's $14 million congestive heart failure project in the department of medicine/division of cardiology, Dr. Richard Luduena's work in the department of biochemistry, new faculty member Dr. Kristen Vogel's research in the department of cellular and structural biology, and Dr. Gokul Das's work in the department of surgery.

The new award project titles, investigators and amounts are:

"The Role of BRCA1-Dependent Ubiquitination in Breast Cancer" — P. Renee Yew, Ph.D., assistant professor, $411,000 for three years;

"Molecular Characteristics of Multicorn, a New Large Proteolytic Assembly and Potential Anti-Cancer Drug Target, in Human Breast Cancer Cells" — Maria E. Gaczynska, Ph.D., assistant professor, $324,000 for three years;

"Small Chemical Molecules that Disrupt BRCA2 and Rad51 Interaction for Adjuvant Breast Cancer Therapy" — Phang-Lang Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor, $433,000 for three years;

"Regulation of BRCA1 Function by DNA Damage-Induced Site-Specific Phosphorylation" — Thomas G. Boyer, Ph.D., assistant professor, $414,000 for three years;

"Functional Interactions of hRad54 with the Rad51 Recombinase" — Stephen Van Komen, graduate student and teaching assistant in the laboratory of Patrick M. Sung, Ph.D., $65,000 for two years;

"Functions of Human Rad51 and other Recombination Factors in DNA Double-Strand Break Repair" — Stefan Sigurdsson, graduate student and teaching assistant in Patrick Sung's lab, $66,000 for three years.

Contact: Will Sansom