Hormel Institute gets grants of nearly $1.3 million

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, July 31, 2010

More than $1 million in grants have been approved for five cancer research projects being conducted at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota-Mayo Clinic.
Three grants involve studies related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. The others will perform research related to pancreatic cancer, which has a high mortality rate, and other cancers, including bladder cancer.
Funding periods vary for the grants, which total about $1.3 million overall, running through either 2011 or 2012.
Dr. Mohammad Saleem Bhat (molecular chemoprevention and therapeutics), Dr. PeiWen Fei (tumor suppressors and cancer susceptibility syndromes) and Dr. Junxuan Lu (cancer biology) are the principal investigators who applied for and received these grants:

$371,672 funded by the National Institutes of Health (through March 2012) for an Oriental Herbal Cocktail for Prostate Cancer Chemoprevention.
The long-term goal for Dr. Junxuan Lu and his team is to develop an orally effective, non-toxic alternative and complementary medicine modality from Oriental herbs for prostate cancer chemoprevention.

$316,438 funded by the National Institutes of Health (through May 2011) to study the roles of the Fanconi Anemia Pathway in bladder tumorigenesis.
As a long-term goal, Fei’s team wants to use FA as a genetic model system to dissect the FA protein signaling pathway, determine how FA proteins mediate tumor suppression and investigate the potential of targeting the FA pathway as a therapeutic approach in cancer treatment.
It is the first study to analyze how a candidate oncogene interferes with the functionality of the FA pathway in human cancer, including bladder cancer. Fei described it as a “new and exciting concept in the field of cancer research.” Results from the project might lead to the development of more cancer-fighting methods.

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$252,405 funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (through July 2012) to study the role of Polycomb Group Gene Bmi-1 in the development of prostate cancer.
The hope is to use the Bmi-1 protein as a biomarker for the diagnosis and staging of prostate cancer, Bhat said.
It hopefully will lead to future in-depth studies establishing Bmi-1 as a suitable target to monitor the therapeutic response in prostate cancer patients. Recently, Dr. Bhat’s section extended a collaboration with Mayo Clinic’s Department of Urology to investigate the mechanism through which Bmi-1 plays a role in the development of prostate cancer.

$183,811 funded by the National Institutes of Health (through April 2011) for looking at delaying the hormone refactory prostate cancer by dietary Triterpene Lupeol.”
Lupeol is a chemical constituent found in fruits and vegetables, such as olives, strawberries, grapes, apples, cucumbers and medicinal herbs.
This study looks at Lupeol treatment possibly inhibiting tumor growth in the prostate, Bhat said.
This grant focuses on whether Lupeol could delay or prevent the development of androgen-independent prostate cancer. “Lupeol selectively targets cancer cells while sparing normal cells,” said Bhat, who emphasizes it also is a “non-toxic agent.”

$165,000 funded by the American Institute for Cancer Research (through February 2012) for the targeting of cFLIP by Lupeol, a dietary triterpene, for the chemoprevention of pancreatic Cancer.
Bhat’s team has discovered that the cFLIP protein contributes to the failure of chemotherapy in pancreatic-cancer patients. Notably, Lupeol was identified by Bhat’s team to possess the ability to lower the levels of the cFLIP protein and inhibit its activity in pancreatic-cancer cells.
In the future, the hope is for Lupeol to become available as a supplement for cancer prevention and be developed as a therapeutic agent for treating cancer, Bhat said.
Research by Bhat’s team shows that Lupeol, when combined with other chemotherapeutic agents — such as gemcitabine and cisplatin — enhances their ability to target and kill cancer cells. Bhat suggests that Lupeol also might lessen the side effects of chemotherapeutic agents, allowing patients to take lesser dosages of these agents.