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Higgins: Nearly $4.5m award to Roswell Park researcher to study what causes some cancers to become resistant to treatment

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Wed, Jan 13th 2016 12:30 pm

Congressman Brian Higgins announced a Roswell Park Cancer Institute researcher has received three recent grants totaling more than $4.4 million from the National Cancer Institute to explore why some types of cancer cells are resistant or become resistant to existing cancer treatments, making curative therapy for these diagnoses elusive.

Mikhail Nikiforov, Ph.D., professor of oncology and member of the department of cell stress biology at the Buffalo-based comprehensive cancer center, received two of the NCI grants for his investigation into melanoma resistance.

"Metastatic melanoma is one of the most aggressive types of human cancer," Nikiforov said. "The molecular mechanisms of the disease are not completely understood, and efficient melanoma treatment does not exist."

Higgins said, "National Cancer Institute funding directed to research right here at Roswell Park Cancer Institute is leading to better treatments and outcomes for cancer patients everywhere. Those of us who have loved ones touched by cancer know how fortunate we are to have Roswell Park in our community, and these grant awards demonstrate the national confidence placed in Western New York researchers as well."

Higgins is co-chair of the Congressional National Institutes of Health Caucus.

The first funded project is a five-year, $2.03 million award to investigate how stress caused by reactive oxygen species can be used against melanoma cells, and to explore the role of key proteins, including Kruppel-like factor 9, or KLF9, in these processes. The second melanoma project is a two-year, $410,314 award from the NCI to examine the regulation of tumor suppressor genes in melanoma tumors.

Nikiforov's work in melanoma has similarities with the challenges faced in treatment for multiple myeloma, a plasma-cell disorder that accounts for approximately 10 percent of all hematologic malignancies. A third project, funded by a five-year, $1.96 million award, will look at the KLF9-dependent pathways and their role in multiple myeloma becoming resistant to cancer drugs.

Although the overall survival of myeloma patients has substantially increased during the past decade, the disease remains incurable due to acquired and/or inherited resistance of multiple myeloma to the available treatments.

"We hope, through this work, to identify and characterize new targets for multiple myeloma intervention and to suggest new, more effective treatment approaches," Nikiforov said.

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