National Institutes of Health Names UAlbany Cancer Researcher Thomas J. Begley Outstanding New Environmental Scientist

Scientist with Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics awarded $2.2 million to continue research on molecular pathways activated by cancer-causing agents such as cigarette smoke and pesticides.

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 6, 2006) -- Thomas J. Begley, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the University at Albany's Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics, was selected by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to receive an Outstanding New Environmental Scientist Award.

The award, which totals $2.2 million for Begley, identifies "exceptionally talented and creative new scientists who are pursuing careers in environmental health research," according to David A. Schwartz, M.D., director of NIEHS, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Known collectively as the Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) Award, the initial grants will support eight early career scientists, including Begley, over a five-year period.

"The ONES Program is designed to provide a strong foundation for outstanding scientists who are in the early, formative stages of their careers," said Schwartz in a statement. "These grants will assist the scientists in launching innovative research programs that focus on human disease and the influence of the environment."

DNA damage and signaling parthways in a cell, aspects of research done by cancer researcher Thomas Begley, are depicted in this image.

Begley will use the award to continue his work on molecular pathways activated by cancer causing agents such as cigarette smoke and pesticides. Begley will examine the way in which damage to DNA from environmental exposures can trigger the production of certain proteins that help protect the cell from toxic agents. Begley's team has identified a novel signaling pathway believed to increase the levels of important proteins used to detoxify cells after exposure. He is ultimately trying to understand why some people are sensitive to environment-induced disease while others are not. His laboratory is using yeast and human cell models to study this signaling pathway, and Begley will collaborate in these studies with fellow University at Albany scientist Doug Conklin.

"It's important for us to realize that we are exposed to contaminants and toxic compounds from our environment during normal everyday life, and I want to understand how people react to their environment and why they react in a certain way," said Begley. "We think the pathway might have a role in helping us define genetic profiles of people susceptible to environmentally-induced disease. The pathway also has the potential to be exploited for therapeutic reasons. Chemotherapy, for instance, can be a much exaggerated form of environmental exposure, as some similar stress response pathways are activated."