Roswell Receives $7 Million for Research

Roswell Park Teams Awarded Nearly $7 Million in Research Funding
NCI award for $4.2 million supports new research on photodynamic therapy, an approach developed at RPCI

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Investigators at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) have garnered nearly $7 million in recent research grants. The awards include a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to optimize a particular approach for administering photodynamic therapy (PDT), a form of cancer therapy that was developed at Roswell Park in the 1970s.

Gal Shafirstein, DSc, Professor of Oncology, Director of Photodynamic Therapy Clinical Research and a member of the Department of Cell Stress Biology, will lead that effort to improve interstitial photodynamic therapy (I-PDT) in patients with head and neck cancers that have started to spread to other tissues. PDT involves administration of a light-sensitizing drug that collects in cancer cells followed by illumination with a non-burning laser to kill cancer cells. This project will employ RPCI’s novel treatment planning capabilities and integrated image-guided dosimetry system to define — for the first time — the optimal laser settings for treating patients with I-PDT.

Other Roswell Park researchers who were awarded grant funding in late 2015 are:

Gary Smith, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Oncology, and Yue WuPhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, both from the Department of Urology, received a five-year, $2 million award from the NCI for research to define the mechanisms that regulate how androgens move through blood vessel walls into prostate cancer cells, where they drive cancer growth. This project focuses on the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels and are on the cancer cells. It’s anticipated that the team’s findings will identify androgen-uptake mechanisms that can be targeted to achieve a prostate-limited androgen-deprivation therapy for prostate cancer, minimizing the systemic side effects of conventional androgen deprivation.

Fumito ItoMD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Surgical Oncology and the Center for Immunotherapy, received a five-year, $832,594 award from the NCI for his work with adoptive T-cell therapy, which uses a patient’s own tumor-specific immune cells to fight cancer. Although the therapy has emerged as one of the most effective treatments for melanoma, lymphoma and leukemia, it’s difficult to generate the large numbers of young T cells needed. Dr. Ito’s preclinical study will test the safety and efficacy of rejuvenated tumor-specific T cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), adult cells reprogrammed into embryonic-like cells.

James Mohler, MD, Associate Director and Senior Vice President for Translational Research and Chair of the Department of Urology, received a two-year, $450,000 award from the New York State Department of Health to award internally to research projects that represent an innovative approach to an important problem in prostate cancer. The internal grantees and their projects are:

  • Gary Smith, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Oncology, in the Department of Urology, for the project “ADT-induced therapeutic window for treatment of organ-localized prostate cancer.”
  • Anna Woloszynska-Read, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, for the project “Genetic and epigenetic prostate cancer-related alterations in early-onset disease in African American men.”
  • Yue Wu, PhDAssistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Urology, for the project “Targeting usage of adrenal androgens for complete androgen deprivation therapy.”

Mikhail Nikiforov, PhD, Professor of Oncology and member of the Department of Cell Stress Biology, received a two-year, $410,314 award from the NCI to examine the regulation of tumor-suppressor genes in the course of melanoma progression.

Santosh Patnaik, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Thoracic Surgery, received a three-year, $371,583 subcontract award from the University at Buffalo, part of a larger project funded by the NCI. That grant will fund a project titled “Noninvasive detection of circulating RNA for lung cancer early detection and prognosis.”

Wen Wee MaMBBS, Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Medicine, shares leadership of a five-year NCI grant that involves a consortium of research institutions in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the United States. RPCI was awarded a subcontract grant of $235,610 from the University at Buffalo, the lead institution for the U.S. in this project. The four collaborating sites are researching combination chemotherapy approaches for pancreatic cancer that pair nanoparticle drug-delivery carriers with “tumor priming” drugs that enhance the ability of nanoparticles to deposit in tumors.

Peter Demant, MD, PhD, received a two-year, $171,500 award from the NCI for work to explore genetic markers that may predict whether a tumor will respond to certain chemotherapy drugs. His findings could potentially pave the way for patients to avoid ineffective drugs in their treatment.

Paul Wallace, PhD, Professor of Oncology and Director of the Department of Flow & Image Cytometry, received a five-year, $131,264 award from the National Marrow Donor Program for the project “Minimal residual disease testing via multiparametric flow cytometry.”