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Two University of Houston researchers awarded grant for Cancer Research

Friday March 2, 2018 3:36 PM, News Network

Navi Varadarajan
[Navin Varadarajan (R) and Sanghyuk Chung. (Photo: University of Houston)]

Houston: Navin Varadarajan, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of Houston was awarded $1,173,420 to improve effectiveness of T-cell immunotherapy by the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the organization that funds groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs in the state, also awarded $811,617 to Sanghyuk Chung, Associate Arofessor of Biology and Biochemistry, to define molecular targets for the treatment of cervical cancer.

This is Varadarajan’s second CPRIT grant which he will use his grant to bring consistent results to cancer patients undergoing T-cell immunotherapy by manufacturing programmed T cells to meet, recognise and destroy tumours, a statement said.

“We have to understand every single T cell and what each one is capable of,” said Varadarajan, who is looking for the perfect cell composition in order to manufacture only the ones that cure tumors. “Once we know what is required to get a positive response, we can control the composition of the cells so that they all can work to fight cancer,” he said.

Sanghyuk Chung will use his award to delve into the little-researched topic - the role of oestrogen in the development of cervical cancer. Although cervical cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide, there has been little progress in the treatment of it over the past decade. "It is clearly demonstrated that human papillomavirus (HPV) is required for the development of cervical cancer, but evidence indicates that other co-factors are required for cervical cancer," Chung said.

In particular, Chung is examining stromal cells, those that surround the cancer cells and form a micro environment for them. Preliminary results suggest that estrogen receptor alpha expressed in stromal cells rather than cancer cells is required for the genesis and growth of cervical cancer. “Estrogen receptor alpha in the stromal cells activate multiple molecular pathways and we want to find which pathway is responsible for growth of the cancer cells. If we find it, we can inhibit that pathway,” he said.

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