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Recipients of the 2006 Research Awards announced

By Elizabeth Crown

The Stanford University Comprehensive Cancer Center has named the recipients of the 2006 Research Awards, a new seed grant program to support discovery and innovation in the etiology, detection, treatment and prevention of cancer. Award-winning researchers received $50,000 each to support projects focusing on either of two areas of investigation:

Translational research grants for innovative collaborations between basic scientists and clinical researchers to translate laboratory discoveries into new approaches for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Population science research grants to support investigations in cancer epidemiology, survivorship and control with the goal of advancing more effective prevention and detection strategies, public health policy and cancer care.

The work of recipients of the 2006 translational research awards will be highlighted here and in subsequent reports.

Laurie Ailles
Laurie Ailles uses a fluorescence activated cell sorter to identify subpopulations of cancer cells.


Laurie E. Ailles, PhD, basic science research associate, Department of Pathology and Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, for “Identification of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Stem Cells (HNSCC) and Characterization of Their Biological Properties.”

The grant will enable Dr. Ailles to build on her previous research that demonstrated the existence of a unique subpopulation of cancer stem cells (Lin-CD44+) in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma that have the exclusive ability to give rise to new tumors.

The aims of Ailles’s new study include screening the Lin-CD44+ subpopulation of HNSCC for cell surface markers leading to increased purity of the tumorigenic population; determining whether the tumorigenic subpopulation of HNSCC is more resistant to chemotherapy compared with the remaining bulk of the tumor; and investigating the roles of stem cell-related genes in HNSCC growth.

This research will be conducted in the laboratory of Irving L. Weissman, M.D., Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor and director of the Stanford University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The translational research project of J. Martin Brown, D.Phil., Professor, Radiation Oncology (radiation and cancer biology) and noted authority on tumor radiation biology, will focus on the “Role of Bone Marrow Derived Cells in Response of Solid Tumors to Radiotherapy.”

Brown and other researchers have found that, despite modern techniques of conformal radiotherapy and the addition of cytotoxic chemotherapy, a large portion of head and neck tumors recur within the radiation field and are the major contributor to death of treated patients. The fact that recurrences occur is surprising in view of the fact that the radiation doses would be expected to kill all the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels in the tumors even if they do not kill all the tumor cells.

This radiation resistance strongly suggests that cells that can restore tumor vasculature must enter the tumor following treatment and play a major role in the resistance of tumors to irradiation.

With Judith A. Shizuru, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and an expert in hematopoietic cell transplantation, Dr. Brown will explore whether bone marrow-derived cells repopulate or stabilize tumor blood vessels after irradiation and will target these cells or their growth factor products in combination with fractionated local tumor irradiation.

Targeting both the local tumor and the bone marrow-derived cells could lead to a major increase in the curability of head and neck tumors by irradiation. It is hoped that results of this study could be readily translated into a clinical trial.

John K. Chan, M.D., Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology (gynecologic oncology), will apply his $50,000 seed grant to a research project titled “Preclinical Development of a Targeted Dual Biotherapy for Ovarian Cancer Using a Molecular Bioluminescence Imaging Model.”

Chan’s research explores the use of immune-based cellular therapies to treat cancer, including epithelial ovarian cancer. Specifically, Chan’s laboratory group has shown that cytokine-induced killer cells (CIK) can be successfully redirected to ovarian cancer cells using bispecific antibodies (BSAbs) against Cancer Antigen-125 (CA125) and Human Epithelial Antigen-2. Previous research has shown that these cells can potentially be used as a vehicle for the delivery of oncolytic viruses for cancer virotherapy.

The objective of his new project is to determine the efficacy of a combination therapy for ovarian cancer, where bispecific antibody CA125 (BSAbCA125) redirected CIK cells are used to deliver oncolytic vaccinia viruses to ovarian tumor targets.

 Posted: 10/26/06

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