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Vol. 2, No. 6                                                                                                                 March 20, 2019

Cancer Institute Member Spotlight

Isabelle Racine Miousse, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 
UAMS College of Medicine
Dr. Miousse's work investigates the crucial differences between healthy cells and cancer cells. Her expertise covers the absorption, processing and utilization of methyl groups, as well as epigenetic changes associated with cancer. Read more>
Breast Cancer Awards Announced

The Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program (ABCRP) was created through the Breast Cancer Act of 1997 by the Arkansas General Assembly. It established the investment of a state tobacco tax into researching the cause, cure, treatment, prevention and earlier detection of breast cancer. Approximately $800,000 per year is made available for breast cancer research.

All research proposals undergo peer-review, and scores are shared with the ABCRP Oversight Committee, which then determines the allocation of research funds. The ABCRP Oversight Committee members are appointed by the governor of Arkansas. Collectively, they represent all four congressional districts in the state and individually serve in specific roles on the committee. Breast cancer researchers throughout  Arkansas are invited to apply for funding every year. 

Below is the list of this year’s ABCRP awards:

“Role of SR-A binding to Tumor-Associated Glycans in Breast Cancer” 
PI: Steve Post, Ph.D.
Institution: UAMS
Non-Pilot Award Amount: $233,328

“Investigating Mechanisms of Treatment Resistance in Breast Cancer Stem Cells”
PI: Robert Eoff, Ph.D.
Institution: UAMS
Non-Pilot Award Amount: $248,699

“Association between DNA Methyltransferase Gene Polymorphism and Breast Cancer”
PI: Tung-Chin Chiang, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.
Institution: UAMS
Pilot Award Amount: $75,000

“Noninvasive Molecular Sensing of Breast Cancer Response to Therapeutics Using Raman Spectroscopy”
PI: Narasimhan Rajaram, Ph.D.
Institution: University of Arkansas
Pilot Award Amount: $75,000

“Angiopoietin Like 4 Affects Blood Brain Barrier Extravasation by TNBC via Matrix Metalloproteinases”
PI: Tameka Arnett Jennings, Ph.D.
Institution: University of Arkansas
Pilot Award Amount: $74,967

“Exosomes as Biomarkers and Therapeutic Targets in Early Breast Cancer”
PI: Valentina Todorova, Ph.D.
Institution: UAMS
Pilot Award Amount: $53,730

Additionally $125,000 was allocated to support the first year of a two-year KL2 award to be administered through the UAMS TRI, and $120,000 was allocated to support the recruitment of a breast cancer researcher. 

Congratulations to all awardees! We look forward to learning about your research success.
Research Grants Available at the VA

The VA research program offers exceptional opportunities for funding, career development and collaboration. In order to apply for VA grants, researchers must have at least a 5/8ths VA appointment or a letter of support indicating the appointment will be given if the grant is funded. The process to apply for VA funding if you do not already have a VA appointment is detailed at the end of this article.

With an awarded VA grant in hand, the VA offers 40,000 square feet of lab space, a transgenic animal lab and veterinary medicine unit, a genomics core and mentorship for the career development program.  Career development and funding opportunities are available through four VA research divisions:
  • Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development (BLR&D)
  • Clinical Science Research and Development (CSR&D)
  • Rehabilitation Research and Development (RR&D)
  • Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D)
VA research has funding mechanisms that are very similar to those of NIH. These include Merit Review Awards (similar to R01) and Career Development Awards (similar to K awards). A Cooperative Studies Program sponsors multi-site clinical trials. The VA also offers Research Career Scientist positions, which provide salary support and bridge funding for successful non-clinician VA investigators.

Why should cancer researchers consider VA funding? The VA Merit Review program typically funds about 20 percent of applications and higher funding rates are achieved for proposed research in high-priority areas, including but not limited to the following:
  • Suicide prevention
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • PTSD
  • Deployment-related health issues, e.g. environmental exposures
  • Opioids/pain management
  • Aging and diabetes
BLR&D and CSR&D grant applications are accepted in March and September. HSR&D and RR&D applications are accepted during June and December. Each division may also have earlier pre-application submission review requirements (e.g. Letter of Intent).

For more information about available funding or collaborative opportunities, contact Richard Owen, M.D., associate chief of staff for research, (; 501-257-1710) and Richard Dennis, Ph.D., deputy associate chief of staff for research, (; 501-257-5583).

Applying for VA funding as a non-VA researcher:
  1. Send Rich Dennis, Ph.D., and Rick Owen, M.D., an abstract of your proposed grant/research idea along with your CV, and they will respond with the most closely aligned RFAs.
  2. Identify the RFA(s) to which you would most like to apply.
  3. Talk with your department chair about willingness to support a dual UAMS/VA appointment (minimum 5/8 VA) if grant funding is received and obtain a letter of support indicating such.
  4. Meet with Drs. Dennis and Owen to discuss your proposed grant and plans for VA involvement.  Information on promising candidates will be forwarded to the CAVHS Research & Development Committee for approval to submit. 
  5. Once internal VA approval has been obtained to move forward with the grant, a letter of support will be requested from the VA Chief of Staff and Medical Center Director to accompany your application. Note that non-clinician investigators who would like to submit a Merit Review application have to first submit a brief request for eligibility – Drs. Dennis and Owen will provide details.
  6. Submit your grant application.
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