In the CCM, four junior investigators, mentored by teams of clinicians and scientists from a variety of disciplines, departments and colleges at UK, each lead major projects investigating an aspect of cancer metabolism.
“The Center for Cancer and Metabolism helps UK researchers to identify the mechanism underlying the dysregulation of metabolism and cancer development,” Zhou said. “Ultimately, this line of investigation will lead to development of innovative therapeutics to prevent cancer for the benefit of patients and their families in Kentucky.”
Each CCM project leads investigators into new territory to develop exciting new treatments. Travis Thomas, PhD; Yadi Wu, PhD; Ren Xu, PhD; and Kate Zaytseva, PhD, were the CCM’s first group of investigators, with Xu “graduating” from the program in the summer of 2017 after receiving independent grant funding to continue his research.
Thomas is analyzing the role of vitamin D in protecting patients against muscle wasting. To fight basal-like breast cancer, Wu is studying serine biosynthesis pathways to develop an effective therapy combining metabolic drugs and epigenetic inhibitors, which slow cancer’s development. And Zaytseva is developing selective therapies to prevent or reduce colorectal cancer metastasis, the leading cause of death from colorectal cancer-related tumors.
To replace Xu’s project, Luksana Chaiswing, PhD, was selected to join the CCM as a project lead investigator studying radiation-resistant prostate cancer, aiming to enhance radiation therapy as a more effective procedure.
Xu’s project focused on defining the role of RORα in suppressing breast cancer progression and metastasis. Thanks to Xu’s role in the CCM and the support of his mentors, his findings were published in the Journal of Cell Science, and an R01 grant proposal based on the project was funded by the NCI.
“The CCM provided substantial help in generating preliminary data, developing the proposal and preparing the application,” Xu said. “In fact, Drs. St. Clair and Andrew Lane are co-investigators on my R01 application.”
That kind of collaboration is exactly why the CCM was an appealing recipient of the COBRE grant, St. Clair said. Earning COBRE grant funding is intensely competitive, both institutionally and nationally. After nearly a year of preparation, UK’s submission was reviewed in June 2016. Upon review, it received a nearly perfect score and was among the leading submissions received for review in 2016.
“Having the kind of environment where learning and collaboration are placed at the forefront is why we were chosen for this grant, and we hope to continue that throughout the life of this center,” St. Clair said.
“It will also enable us to reach out to new and talented researchers who want to come to UK to become new project leaders and continue the work we’re doing.”