UIHC cancer center receives $11.5 million grant

BY KATIE HEINE | JULY 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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A multimillion dollar grant will help support further cancer studies at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Cancer Center, researchers said.

The UIHC Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center announced Wednesday it will maintain its “comprehensive” status from the National Cancer Institute and will be awarded a five-year, $11.5 million federal grant.

“[The grant] provides us with techniques and equipment to perform research without great expense,” said David Lubaroff, associate director for research infrastructure at the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In order to earn comprehensive status, a cancer center needs to demonstrate depth in its scientific research, as well as community outreach.

The cancer centers submit an application, and the National Cancer Institute selects and supports the top-tier institutions to be awarded “comprehensive” status after an extensive site visit by a team of national cancer experts.

The first time the UI center received its “comprehensive” status was in 2000.

And the center’s “excellence across the spectrum” in various research categories is what allowed the center to be recognized, said George Weiner, the director of Holden Center and the C.E. Block Professor of Cancer Research.

“The goal is to reduce the burden of cancer,” he said.

Instead of focusing on one particular area of study, researchers at the UI cancer center study cancer at the basic, clinical, and population level, he said.

Research is made possible with the help of the national grant, which funds 11 core facilities to support cancer research.

The cores range from DNA and clinical trials to small animal imaging and radiation and free radical research, and help “guide scientists,” said Lubaroff, who oversees the core facilities.

Each core boasts top-of-the-line equipment, which likely would be too costly without the grant, he said.

Researchers in the DNA core have used high-tech sequencing equipment to investigate the relationship of cancer and genetics.

“We can say, ‘What’s that gene, what is it doing, and how can we come up with a drug that can treat this,’ ” said Tom Bair, assistant research scientist in the DNA core.

While the newest piece of DNA sequencing equipment is only a year old, he said, it is already out of date. Technology in the research industry turns over quickly, he said, and receiving the cancer grant helps ensure research stays up to date.

One of the most positive aspects of the cores is that other departments in the university can benefit from the research tools.

And collaboration was one of the reasons the Holden Center is Iowa’s only designated comprehensive cancer center, one of 40 in the nation.

“We’re very, very good at working together,” Weiner said. “That’s just the Iowa way.”

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