Faculty members earn cancer research grants

Four researchers at UT Southwestern competed for and won Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program awards totaling more than $734,000. Only 14 percent of the proposed studies received funding, Defense Department officials said.

The largest UT Southwestern award went to Dr. Peter Antich, professor of radiology, who received $465,858 for "Investigation of Metastatic Breast Tumor Heterogeneity and Progression Using Dual Optical/SPECT Imaging."

Optical imaging illuminates tissue with a broad beam of light and detects resulting spectral or fluorescent data, or the light spontaneously emitted by cells. The latter case will allow for imaging of cells bearing the liciferase gene, which is involved in the spread and metastatic development of some tumors.

Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) utilizes the rotation of a photon detector array around part of the body to obtain data from selected radiopharmaceuticals as they arrive at their target tissues or organs. Radiopharmaceuticals include antibodies, antibody fragments and peptides.

"In breast cancer imaging, we are interested in describing the nature of the disease, particularly its aggressiveness, how it spreads through tissue, how and when angiogenesis occurs, and the strategy the tumor uses to spread," said Dr. Antich, holder of the Wechun Pak Professorship of Bone Biophysics. "While these factors are generally appreciated and individually known, their dynamics and interrelationships are not, and this is the goal of our research."

Agnel Sfeir and Yu-chen Chien, student research assistants in cell biology, each were awarded $89,982 for "Altering Telomere-End Processing: A Novel Breast Cancer Therapeutic Approach" and "Critical Contribution of Ral GTPases to Growth and Survival of Breast Cancer Cells," respectively. Lisa Lenertz-Lindemar, a student research assistant in pharmacology, received $88,800 for "The Biochemical Characterization of With No Lysine (WNK), a Recently Identified Serine/Threonine Protein Kinase Involved in Epithelial Ion Transport."

The Breast Cancer Research Program is part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, which is second only to the National Cancer Institute as a source of funding for breast cancer research.