Researchers at UAlbany's Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics Awarded Research Foundation Grant to Study Cancer Cell Dormancy Genes

Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the University at Albany Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics (GCECG) has been awarded a two-year $230,000 grant from the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) to study genes that determine whether cancer cells that spread throughout the body will continue to proliferate and form life threatening large secondary tumor masses or become dormant and harmless.

Douglas Conklin, a GCECG co-investigator and assistant professor will collaborate with Aguirre-Ghiso’s lab using high throughput gene discovery technology to determine the extent of each gene’s functional contribution to cancer cell dormancy.

“More than half of cancer patients will die from metastatic disease -- that is, cancer that has spread throughout the body -- that develops months, years, or even decades after an initial tumor is removed,” said Aguirre-Ghiso. “The aim of our research is to discover the molecular genetic programs that govern a disseminated cancer cell’s decision to proliferate or stay dormant so we can force the cancer cells to stay dormant forever. We hope that this will lead to important benefits for patients.”

Established nearly 30 years ago by grateful patients and their friends and families, the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation is a non-profit, international organization that is dedicated to supporting a focused research program to develop targeted cancer cell-specific therapies with minimal toxicity.

Aguirre-Ghiso is one of four cancer researchers who received the prestigious Waxman award this year in a review of dozens of candidates. The review is conducted by an independent, external committee of eminent scientists who critique the research and assess the merits of the work for further funding, as well as the demonstration of collaboration.

Aguirre-Ghiso and his colleagues will participate in “Institute Without Walls,”a multi-disciplinary program supported by SWCRF. "Creating cancer cell dormancy offers a therapy that can convert cancer into a chronic disorder with long life expectancy for the patient, such as diabetes,” said Dr. Samuel Waxman, of SWCRF.

"Doctors Aguirre-Ghiso and Conklin are pioneers in their respective fields of cancer biology and functional genomics," said Paulette McCormick, director of GCECG. “The Waxman award, known among cancer researchers as a highly prestigious and exclusive honor, is validation of the powerful potential of their collaborative research. We are proud of their work and eager to watch as their research leads to the understanding of dormancy and potential treatments for cancer.”