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News Highlights

November 6, 2015

Excellence in Research Award Recipients

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Earl Stoner, President of the Friends of the UH Cancer Center

The Friends of the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center announced winners of its quarterly Excellence in Research Award in October 2015. Each recipient was awarded $4,500 of which more than 80 percent will go back into research.

Michele Carbone, MD, PhD, director of the UH Cancer Center's Thoracic Oncology Program was a recipient for his study, Minimal asbestos exposure in germline BAP1 heterozygous mice is associated with deregulated inflammatory response and increased risk of mesothelioma.

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Dr. Michele Carbone

The study published in Oncogene outlines the discovery of BAP1 as the first gene that predisposes people to mesothelioma and other cancers. The discovery will potentially allow those who are at high risk for the disease to be screened for the genetic susceptibility earlier leading to improved prognosis. Carbone and his colleagues are now following more than forty United States families affected by BAP1 mutations.

"I am very grateful to the Friends of the Cancer Center for providing this award that will be used to support the cost of testing family members for BAP1 mutations," said Dr. Carbone.

James Turkson, PhD, UH Cancer Center's chief academic lead and director of the Natural Products and Experimental Therapeutics Program was also an award recipient for his study, Hydroxamic acid and benzoic acid-based Stat3 inhibitors suppress human glioma and breast cancer phenotypes in vitro and in vivo.

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Dr. James Turkson

Dr. Turkson and his research team discovered two chemical compounds that effectively stop the growth of brain cancer cells and breast tumors, opening the way for potential new drugs to be developed. In the study published in the journal Cancer Research, Turkson and collaborators examined compounds that inhibit Stat3, a protein implicated in a variety of cancers that include brain and breast cancers.

"It is a great honor to receive this award from the Friends. In addition to our gratitude, this support will contribute to enhancing our research activities in making discoveries that help prevent and treat cancer patients. The Friends have always been a strong support for the Cancer Center and we are fortunate to have them," said Dr. Turkson.

The Excellence in Research Award sponsored by the Friends of the UH Cancer Center, recognizes significant scientific publications on studies conducted by Cancer Center researchers. A panel of experts reviews the award submissions. The winners are selected based on how well the research advances the particular field of study, how it supports the overall mission of the UH Cancer Center, and the impact factor of the journal in which the paper was published. Impact factor is defined as a measure of the average number of times recent articles published in a particular journal are cited.


News Highlights

October 21, 2015

QUEST FOR A CURE "Update on Breast and Colon Cancers"

More than sixty people attended the 2nd Annual Quest For a Cure: Update on Breast and Colon Cancers event. Each year increasing numbers of people survive cancer in the U.S. due to improved screening earlier detection, and new more effective treatments that result from progress in cancer research.

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The presenters at the event addressed how research has improved the quality of life and survival of individuals diagnosed with breast and colon cancers. The speakers included University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers, affiliated community cancer specialists and a breast cancer survivor.

The topics at the event were: The Evolution of Cancer Drug Therapies, Today's Targeted Interventions to Prevent and Treat Breast and Colon Cancers, The Evolution of Radiation Therapy for Breast and Colon Cancers: Targeted Treatments Through Clinical Trials, and New Drug Discovery and Development.

Researchers enjoyed sharing the progress being made in cancer research at the UH Cancer Center. The Center is the cancer research bridge between Asia and the United States. The goal of the Center is to reduce the burden of cancer through research, education, and patient care, with an emphasis on the unique ethnic, cultural, and environmental characteristics of Hawai'i and the Pacific.

See KHON2's story on the event here

See interviews at Quest here


New Highlights

October 30, 2015

Phil Olsen


The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center discovery could warn patients years in advance allowing for a lifestyle change

HONOLULU – A panel of markers have been discovered that helps identify if a person is pre-diabetic by measuring the fatty acids in their blood. This discovery by University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers may allow physicians to warn patients years before the onset of diabetes, therefore allowing them to change their lifestyle patterns potentially avoiding the diagnosis of a chronic disease.

"Currently there are no clinical tests that tell you the likelihood of developing diabetes, only exams that tell you for example if someone that is pre-diabetic has relatively high blood sugar or insulin levels," said Dr. Wei Jia director of the UH Cancer Center's Metabolomics Shared Resources Program. "To know if you are likely to get diabetes in a few years is an important discovery. People can hopefully get tested for the disease during physical exams in the future."

The unsaturated fatty acid markers recently identified in a study published online in the journal EBioMedicine can mark if someone is pre-diabetic long before conventional ways of measuring the disease. The levels of these fatty acids can change up to 10 years before the individuals are diagnosed with diabetes.

The markers through a blood sample test may help predict the risk of developing pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions including elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance and high glucose level.

"It is conventionally assumed that if people are obese they are in risk of being pre-diabetic. However, sometimes people who are obese can still be healthy. If people know they are specifically pre-diabetic they can have a more targeted way of treating it," said Dr. Jia.

Obesity is associated with the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, it has been increasingly recognized that obesity is not a homogeneous condition and about 25 to 40 percent of obese individuals can actually maintain healthy status with no apparent signs of health complications.

Dr. Jia and his research team conducted a metabolomics study on four independent cohorts that involved a total of 452 participants, in collaboration with scientists at Shanghai Jiao Tong University affiliated Shanghai 6th People's Hospital.

The team performed a cross-sectional study with metabolically healthy and unhealthy obese subjects, a longitudinal study to observe the occurrence of developing pre-diabetes over as long as ten years, and two studies to evaluate the therapeutic effects on subjects who underwent metabolic surgery or received very low carbohydrate diet for eight weeks.

The researchers aim to continue developing the blood test technology, and eventually have it available for physicians.


New Highlights

September 17, 2015

Phil Olsen

Volunteers help at 2015 Four Seasons Hualālai Run for Hope

Nine UH Cancer Center volunteers helped raise funds for cancer research in support of the Four Seasons Hualālai Run for Hope weekend September 11-13.

The volunteers included Amber Chang, Kynan Metoyer, and Corie Fulgencio-Arrẻ from the Human Resources Department; Namrata Gurung from Administration; Patti Corrales from the Cancer Epidemiology Program; Crissy and Todd Kawamoto from the Cancer Prevention and Control Program; Sharon Shigemasa from the Communications Department; and Agata Szymiczek from the Cancer Biology Program.

The Cancer Center co-sponsored the 18th Annual West Hawai'i Cancer Symposium, an educational event during the weekend. This year's topics focused on breast, genitourinary, lung, and pancreatic cancers, leukemia and lymphoma, exercise and cancer, genetics in cancer, and pain management.

The volunteers helped throughout the weekend with duties such as bussing the Taste of Hawai'i Island Dinner, assembling runners' packets, and performing various jobs at the golf tournament including staffing the refreshment stands.

The volunteers' airfare, ground transportation, and hotel accommodations were provided by the Friends of the UH Cancer Center. The UH Cancer Center is a beneficiary of proceeds from the Four Seasons Hualālai's social fundraising activities during the Run for Hope weekend.


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