Institute to present at cancer conference

Published 9:59 am Monday, April 20, 2015

The Hormel Institute will share some of its cancer research projects over the coming days at a major annual conference that attracts top researchers from around the world.

Starting Saturday, April 18, the 106th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will host about 18,000 cancer researchers from more than 60 countries during its five-day conference in Philadelphia.

Institute researchers including Executive Director Zigang Dong, will present at the AACR conference results from numerous projects related to cancer of the colon, lung, prostate, bile duct and blood (leukemia).

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This year, the AACR conference — considered the premier cancer research event to share the latest, most-exciting basic, translational and clinical discoveries — is themed “Bringing Cancer Discoveries to Patients” to underscore the vital inextricable connection between discovery and treatment. The event’s theme also reinforces the fact that research supports all of the progress being made in the field toward cancer cures.

At the conference, the Institute will present several projects from the Molecular & Cellular Biology section co-led by Dr. Zigang Dong and Dr. Ann M. Bode, Associate Director. One of those projects is the team’s investigation of the effects of isoliquiritigenin, a natural compound from licorice root, on non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). They found that isoliquiritigenin suppresses NSCLC cell growth by targeting a genetic alteration considered to be a high-risk factor of NSCLC.

Another presentation from the Dong/Bode section will highlight work on the therapeutic effects on lung cancer by catechol, a naturally occurring chemical in many foods, including apple, banana, apricot, grape, plum, avocado and mushroom. Their work suggests catechol possesses potential as a novel, therapeutic agent against lung cancer, the leading cause of death in the United States for decades due to cancer-related signaling pathways activated by carcinogens, such as smoking tobacco.

Researchers from the Dong/Bode lab also will discuss their discovery of an inhibitor of the COX-1 enzyme that plays a critical role in colorectal cancer. The team’s works shows that the inhibitor merits further investigation as a potential preventive agent against colon cancer. COX-1 is being reconsidered as a chemoprevention target due to recent clinical trials raising concerns about the cardiovascular toxicity of inhibitors of the COX-2 enzyme.

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) — the most-active anticancer component in green tea — also will be part of work shown at the conference by the Dong/Bode lab, specifically the Institute’s computational and biochemical discovery of RSK2 as a novel target for EGCG to suppress RSK2’s cancer-related activities.

Dr. Mohammad Saleem (Bhat), leader of the Institute’s Molecular Chemoprevention & Therapeutics section, will give a mini-symposium at the AACR event on his team’s work to find better alternatives to the current androgen receptor-targeted therapies for castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), a deadly form of the disease that is difficult to treat. Their work suggests a new approach for treating CRPC in men.

Dr. Sergio Gradilone, leader of Cancer Cell Biology & Translational Research section, will show his work on cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), also known as cancer of the bile duct, a thin tube that reaches from the liver to the small intestine. CCA often is referred to as a “silent disease” due to its signs and symptoms mostly going unnoticed until the cancer is in an advanced stage. Gradilone will show his team’s work to further clarify the molecular mechanisms of CCA while also identifying multiple potential molecules for targeted therapies of the disease.

Dr. Shujun Liu, head of the Cancer Epigenetics & Experimental Therapeutics section, also will have his team’s work on display in relation to the drug nilotinib, which has been approved to treat newly diagnosed, imatinib-resistant or -intolerant leukemia. The Liu team’s work has provided greater understanding of nilotinib’s anti-leukemia actions while also offering a new, therapeutic avenue for the drug to overcome present challenges.