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Grant Helps UIC Researcher Study Most Common Cancer of Infants

A cancer researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $100,000 grant from the St. Baldrick's Foundation to study the basic biology of neuroblastoma, a cancer of immature nerve cells that is the most common cancer of infants.

John O'Bryan, assistant professor of pharmacology in the UIC College of Medicine, has been studying a protein called intersectin that he and his coworkers have shown is highly expressed in neuroblastoma and seems to play a role in its creation.

The new, one-year grant, O'Bryan said, will allow his laboratory to determine the biochemical pathways through which intersectin regulates neuroblastoma cells' ability to become tumors.

"The St. Baldrick grant gives us an opportunity to pursue a promising lead that we would not be able to explore under our existing grants," he said.

Neuroblastoma accounts for 7 percent of all cancer in children, and 90 percent of cases are in children under 5, according to the American Cancer Society. Nearly two-thirds of these children are diagnosed only after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Fewer than 40 percent of these children survive long-term because the tumors are often resistant to traditional chemotherapy.

O'Bryan said he hopes the new grant "will help in the eventual development of new targeted therapies for treating this devastating childhood cancer."

The St. Baldrick's Foundation began as a challenge between friends and has grown into the world's largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer research. The foundation raised more than $17 million in 2008.

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

Jeanne Galatzer-Levy | Newswise Science News
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