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Vol. 3, No. 6                                                                                                          March 25, 2020

Cancer Institute Member Spotlight

Robert Griffin, Ph.D.
Department of Radiation Oncology
UAMS College of Medicine
Much of Dr. Griffin's work has involved studying the interactions of normal and tumor microvasculature with tumor cells in the context of blood flow, hypoxia and the tumor microenvironment. Applied studies using various nanomaterials (e.g., nanoliposomes and various nanomedicines) for targeted delivery to the tumor vasculature to improve responses to radiation, thermal treatment, or chemotherapy have been a growing interest over the last 10+ years. Read more>
Cancer Institute Research Programs
Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences
Co-Leaders: Joseph Su, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Mayumi Nakagawa, M.D., Ph.D.

This is the first of a four-part series highlighting the Cancer Institute research programs and opportunities for inter- and intraprogrammatic collaborations. The Cancer Institute research programs provide a collaborative environment for the conceptualization and conduct of basic, translational and clinical cancer-focused research.

The Cancer Prevention & Population Science (CPPS) program conducts research to define etiologic factors underlying health disparities in the urban-rural continuum. The program’s team-oriented and translationally based approach cover the entire cancer continuum — primary prevention, early detection, laboratory research, clinical trials and applications, diagnosis and treatment, quality of life, and survivorship. Mayumi Nakagawa, M.D., Ph.D., and Joseph Su, Ph.D., M.P.H., have served as co-leaders of the program since its formation in 2015.

In terms of the Cancer Institute’s efforts to achieve NCI Designation, CPPS is a vital program to ensure statewide efforts related to cancer prevention and screening are being met.

“The title of our program describes its focus, which is cancer prevention on the population level. In Arkansas, we have high diagnosis, incidence and mortality rates of certain types of cancer, particularly lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. We are looking at the varied reasons for this and how to combat it,” Nakagawa said.

Among the areas the program examines include lack of access to services, underutilization of cancer preventative measures and screenings, and genetic, lifestyle and environmental causes of cancer.

“Cancer disparities have a lot to do with behavior-related issues, such as smoking and obesity. In terms of preventative services, Arkansas has one of the lowest rates of people receiving the HPV vaccine and one of the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality. This is preventable and a place where we as a state need to improve,” Su said.

Major projects underway in the CPPS include two ongoing clinical trials for a therapeutic HPV vaccine developed in Nakagawa’s lab. One of the trials, now in Phase 2, treats women with high-grade precancerous cervical lesions by enhancing their immune response. The second trial, now in Phase 1/2, is designed to prevent recurrence of head and neck cancer in previously diagnosed patients.

CPPS also is charged by the state Legislature to study the feasibility of a statewide cancer navigation program. The effort, which would include many stakeholders from across Arkansas, would serve as a resource to help patients find the most convenient services in their community, from cancer prevention through treatment and survivorship.

“For a lot of Arkansans, poverty is a major issue. Traveling to Little Rock for medical treatment can be a challenge, so we are hoping to direct people to services in their own communities that can serve their needs,” Su said.

In a project funded by the Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program, Su’s team is working with ARCare, a federally qualified health center, to do a randomized trial examining the outcome of breast cancer survivors who receive face-to-face follow-up care versus those who receive care via telemedicine.

“UAMS already provides excellent cancer treatment, but there’s much more we can do in terms of prevention. If we can improve screening rates and access to care, we can ultimately decrease the cancer burden and improve the health of many Arkansans,” Nakagawa said.
With Gratitude to the Research Community From Jennifer Hunt, M.D.

Jennifer Hunt, M.D., chair of the UAMS Department of Pathology and Laboratory Services, recently shared the below email expressing her gratitude to the UAMS research community for their dedication, donations and support for the COVID-19 efforts. It is reprinted here with permission.

Over the past 10 days, I have reinvigorated my gratitude practice. It is one of the few proven things that increases happiness, and we all need more happiness right now. And, I also share my gratitude with the recipient(s), because that's also been proven to amplify and sustain the happiness effects beyond just me.  

This morning as I prepare for another day, I am reflecting on our research community and feeling grateful for all of you. We are thrown into the midst of this crisis, where the clinical teams know what to do. They've trained for this, have specific jobs to carry out. But, what happens when the clinical mission becomes massive and overshadows the other missions for a period of time? Where do our educators and investigators find meaning and purpose during this time of fear, anxiety and crisis? I have at least one potential answer...they donate. We have received incredible donations of every kind: tubes, reagents, supplies, and crucial components. Our UAMS and UA system investigators are digging deep to find things we need every single day, some of which would stop us in our tracks if we didn't have.  Who would have thought that this week's limiting component would be backordered tubes? And, who would have thought we would get thousands donated within an hour or two?

And, our research community is also donating intellect, brain power, innovation, and ideas--even if we don't have time to think about them today.  While we implement the most simple and streamlined approaches for testing, our research community is thinking about generation 2.0 and how we can make it better, faster, more efficient. We will need this for the marathon we are running. 

And, our research community is donating time. We have teams of scientists and highly trained research staff stepping up for support of clinical testing. We have people coming in on the weekend to make up reagents for us.  

So today, I am specifically and intentionally grateful to our research community, for stepping up and answering our calls for help. 

COVID-19 Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients
The below information is reprinted from an email sent by the NCI Health Care Delivery Research Program.

The NIH is deeply concerned for the health and safety of people involved in NIH research, and about the effects on the biomedical enterprise in the areas affected by the HHS declared public health emergency for COVID-19. Due to the potential exceptional impact, we want to assure our recipient community that NIH will be doing our part to help you continue your research.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and we will provide updated guidance and information as it becomes available.

Cancer-related Research Funding Opportunities

Extramural Opportunities

Pilot Centers for Precision Disease Modeling (U54) (Clinical Trials Not Allowed)
DOD Breast Cancer, Era of Hope Scholar Award - Synopsis 2
HIV/AIDS and the Tumor Niche (U54 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
Mechanisms of Disparities in Chronic Liver Diseases and Cancer (R21- Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
Mechanisms of Disparities in Chronic Liver Diseases and Cancer (R01- Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
Research Answers to National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Provocative Questions (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)
Research Answers to National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Provocative Questions (R21 Clinical Trial Optional)

Foundation and Intramural Opportunities

Translational Research Institute and Division of Research and Innovation Mentored Grant-Writing Program
Harrington Discovery Institute Scholar-Innovator Award Program

CTSA Supplemental Funding Opportunities

Administrative Supplements to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Parent Admin Supp Clinical Trial Optional)
Clinical Trial Planning: Therapeutic/Indication Pairing Strategies (U34) (Clinical Trials Not Allowed)
Clinic Testing Therapeutic/Indication Pairing Strategies (U01 Clinical Trial Required)
Bench Testing Therapeutic/Indication Pairing Strategies (UG3/UH3)

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