Cancer Research Blog

Bringing You the Latest in the Search For a Cure

Month: August 2014

Grantee Spotlight: Rafael E. Guerrero-Preston, Dr.P.H., M.P.H. – Exploring Genetic and Epigenetic Factors Underlying Head and Neck Cancer Disparities

Rafael E. Guerrero-Preston, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Cancer Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, presented findings from his epigenomic research at the Sixth American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, in December 2013 in Atlanta, GA

With the support of an NCI/CRCHD K01 grant, Guerrero-Preston has been investigating epigenomic biomarkers to improve head and neck cancer early detection and clinical management, and reduce survival disparities in oral and oropharyngeal cancer. This research could help enhance our understanding of why the death rate among black patients from the most common forms of head and neck cancer is about 18% higher than that of white patients, despite the overall decline in deaths from head and neck cancers. “This is the first time that evidence of survival disparities associated with genomic and epigenomic alterations in head and neck cancer have been documented,” he said. “Black and Puerto Rican men have a greater oral and head and neck cancer burden than non-Latino white men in the United States, but the biological basis for these differences is poorly understood.”

Grantee Spotlight: Sunday O. Akintoye, B.D.S., D.D.S., M.S.- Studying the Biology of Bone Cells to Reduce Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Complications

Head and neck cancers include cancers of the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat, and larynx (voice box). Treatment of these cancers often produces jaw bone complications since jaw bone stem cells behave differently than other bone cells in the body. Any amount of radiation or chemotherapy (even low dose treatments) can kill these cells and pose serious complications. Approximately 26% of head and neck cancer patients do not survive the first year after diagnosis due to cancer severity and treatment complications.

Sunday O. Akintoye, B.D.S., D.D.S., M.S., an Associate Professor of Oral Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia, is studying the behavior of jaw bone stem cells and complications related to cancer treatment. The goal of his research is to restore and regenerate these unique cells so the jaw bone can be repaired following cancer treatment

CURE Scholar Spotlight – Dr. Donita Colette Brady

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, killing an estimated 10,000 people a year, according to the National Cancer Institute.  The pioneering efforts of a CRCHD Continuing Umbrella of Research Excellence (CURE) scholar may help unravel one of the mysteries of melanoma.

Donita C. Brady, a research associate Senior at the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University, is investigating the role that copper plays in cell growth and tumor biology. Inspired by mentors Christopher Counter, a cancer biologist, and Dennis Thiele, a copper biologist, at Duke University, Brady has a unique interest in the way copper interacts with protein pathways, such as the BRAF (a human gene that directs cell growth)-MEK-ERK pathway, which is a major target for targeted cancer therapies because the BRAF gene is mutated in 60 percent of melanoma cases.

Grantee Spotlight: Katherine Briant, MPH, CHES – Bridging Community Cancer Education Efforts with Health Disparities Research

Every day brings new opportunities to support community outreach and research as Katherine Briant, M.P.H., C.H.E.S. endeavors to improve the health of disparity communities in the state of Washington.

Briant is a Community Health Education Manager at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. As a Community Health Educator (CHE) that is part of NCI’s National Outreach Network (NON), she bridges NCI-supported outreach and community education efforts with cancer health disparities research and training programs. As a liaison among researchers, partners, and the community, she identifies areas of need, and then develops and disseminates health promotion and cancer education materials that are tailored to the needs of underserved communities.

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