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Grants Support Research Looking at Pediatric Cancer Survivor Issues

Grants Support Research Looking at Pediatric Cancer Survivor Issues

Published: 3/13/2018

The University of Cincinnati (UC) Cancer Institute Cancer Survivorship Program awarded its annual pilot research grants to College of Medicine faculty members on Tuesday, March 13, during a reception honoring guest lecturer Kevin Oeffinger, MD, from Duke Cancer Institute and Duke University Medical Center.

Two $50,000 grants, made possible through a gift from the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation, were awarded to Meghan McGrady, PhD, and Lisa Privette Vinnedge, PhD, both assistant professors of pediatrics with the UC College of Medicine and both researchers at Cincinnati Children’s. The projects focus on issues affecting survivors of pediatric and young adult-related cancers.

Categorizing the Psychosocial Needs of Young Adults with Cancer: Principal Investigator Meghan McGrady, PhD

"Approximately one in four young adult cancer survivors between the ages of 18 and 39 in the United States experience debilitating levels of distress, anxiety and/or depression. These rates are nearly 1.5 times those seen in healthy young adults and significantly higher than rates among older or younger survivors. Despite the prevalence of psychosocial difficulties among young adult survivors and calls from numerous professional organizations to routinely assess psychosocial needs throughout cancer treatment and survivorship, there is no comprehensive psychosocial assessment strategy designed specifically for this subgroup. Without a reliable and valid assessment strategy, medical teams may be failing to identify thousands of young adults who would benefit from psychosocial care. In fact, more than half of young adult cancer survivors who need psychological treatment do not receive it, putting them at an increased risk for impaired emotional and physical functioning. To address this critical gap, our multidisciplinary team of experts will use this grant to begin the validation and refinement of a comprehensive psychosocial assessment strategy designed specifically for young adults. Long-term, it is hoped that this line of research can help to ensure that young adult cancer survivors receive the psychosocial care they need at the right time.”

Determining the Protein DEK’s Role in Secondary Breast Cancer from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivors: Principal Investigator Lisa Privette Vinnedge, PhD

"Survival of pediatric Hodgkin’s disease, or lymphoma, is good—approximately 95 percent. However, the curative treatment is linked to an increase in secondary cancers. Approximately 35 percent of young females with Hodgkin’s lymphoma treated with chest radiation will develop secondary breast cancer by age 50. The majority of these patients are diagnosed with a more advanced, aggressive disease compared to breast cancer in the general population. Radiotherapy is a known cancer initiator by causing different types of DNA damage, thus the expression of DNA repair proteins during radiotherapy are likely to correlate to risk of secondary breast cancer and have the potential to be predictive markers. Radiation-induced DNA mutations to stem and progenitor cells, which are responsible for repairing tissues following injuries and damage, are a potential mechanism for secondary breast cancer formation decades after treatment. We have recently discovered that an estrogen receptor target gene, DEK, mediates cellular response to radiation-induced DNA damage in stem and progenitor cells. DEK is a DNA repair protein that is required for DNA repair responses to radiation and cellular proliferation. Interestingly, DEK deficient stem and progenitor cells avoid cell death and maintain a dormant state following radiation exposure in other tissues. Radiated cells that are in a dormant state often demonstrate inconsistent repair and ultimately increased genetic mutations that can contribute to future tumor formation. Taken together, DEK is an important regulator of DNA repair and tumor formation, with a strong role in cellular radiation response in stem and progenitor cells, and therefore may be a predictive and/or prognostic biomarker for secondary breast cancer after radiotherapy. The DEK protein can be detected both in the plasma and intracellularly in tissues, and both correlate with cancer disease severity. We think that DEK expression is a predictive and/or prognostic biomarker for secondary breast cancer after radiotherapy, and in this study, using this grant, we will look at DEK plasma expression in pediatric female Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients who received radiotherapy and assess correlation with future secondary breast cancer risk. We will also determine the expression and role of DEK in mammary cells exposed to radiation.”

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