Recovery Act helps underwrite cancer research

WVU scientist studies how cancer cells escape normal cell death

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Yon Rojanasakul, Ph.D., is one of West Virginia University’s more successful researchers. His work to determine how and why cancer cells survive beyond the lifespan of normal cells has won steady support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other funding sources, and earlier this year WVU named him a Benedum Distinguished Scholar – the university’s premier research honor.

Now, thanks to a $136,000 grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (part of NIH) a WVU graduate assistant will be able to work side-by-side in the laboratory with Rojanasakul, contributing toward the development of future anticancer drugs.

The grant was made possible by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, part of the stimulus package recently approved by Congress.

Rojanasakul, a School of Pharmacy researcher affiliated with WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, won the funding in competition with researchers from around the country. NIH officials announced in June that more than 20,000 applications for Recovery Act funds had been received at their headquarters for peer review. Several hundred have already been funded, including more than $2 million in grants to other biomedical researchers at WVU.

Rojanasakul’s grant will cover the cost of a graduate assistant’s stipend for two years along with the chemicals and supplies that will be used in the laboratory. The grant supplements existing funding that the federal agency has already provided for a project titled ”Regulation of Fas-Mediated Lung Cell Apoptosis.”

“Cancer cells are resistant to cell death,” he said. “To understand how to treat cancer we have to know how to kill cancerous cells.” His laboratory is studying a family of molecules that act as signals that instruct cells to shut down and whether certain types of drugs can activate or interfere with that process.

“We’re building knowledge about how cells work so that future researchers can develop new drugs.”

Training a new scientist alongside an experienced researcher such as Rojanasakul will pay dividends for decades, said Scot Remick, M.D., director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. “It’s very important that NIH has dedicated a significant portion of its Recovery Act funding to training the next generation of scientists,” he said. “This will ensure that in addition to a one-time boost for research, we are laying the groundwork for the research we must do over the long haul.”

For information on the WVU Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/.

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




For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087

Return To News Releases