WVU cancer researchers study exposure to heavy metals

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –. Medical science knows little about how heavy metals trigger the development of lung cancer, but research under way at West Virginia University could help solve the mystery. 

A team led by Bing-Hua Jiang, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology, immunology and cell biology in the School of Medicine, is focusing on arsenic, cadmium and chromium.  The three are commonly found in the environment in soil, mineral ores, cigarette smoke and contaminated air and water. 

“Epidemiologic studies show that exposure to these heavy metals induces lung, skin, liver and bladder cancers,” says Jiang, a researcher at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at WVU.  “They are carcinogens and increase the risk of cancer in people who ingest or inhale them.”

Jiang’s team will study how the metals induce lung cancer at the molecular level.  “We will expose cell cultures and animal models to the heavy metals. Then we will analyze the molecular mechanisms that occur in an effort to understand how lung cancer develops after heavy metal exposure,” he says.

WVU researchers hope their lab findings will translate to the clinical setting and lead to strategies to prevent lung and other cancers in people exposed to heavy metals.

WVU co-investigators in the study are John Barnett, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology in the School of Medicine; Yon Rojanasakul, Ph.D., professor of basic pharmaceutical sciences in the School of Pharmacy; and Lan Guo, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center in the School of Medicine.

Funding for the project came from a $100,000 seed grant awarded by the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center Office of Research and Graduate Education.  It was the first such grant awarded by the HSC to enhance collaborative research work within interdisciplinary research teams that are likely to win competitive funding from the National Institutes of Health. 
For information about the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/.
For information about the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology see  http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/micro/.

For information about the School of Pharmacy see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/sop/.



For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ss: 02-27-09

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