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V Foundation Awards Three Huntsman Cancer Institute Researchers

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Doug Grossman Keren Hilgendorf Conan Kinsey, MD, PhD
Doug Grossman, MD, PhD | Keren Hilgendorf, PhD | Conan Kinsey, MD, PhD

Three Huntsman Cancer Institute investigators received grants from the V Foundation for cancer research. Physician-scientist Doug Grossman, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology at the University of Utah (U of U), earned a grant through the Translational Award Program. Physician-scientist Conan Kinsey, MD, PhD, received his award through the Clinical Scholar Program, and Keren Hilgendorf, PhD, member of the Cell Response and Regulation Program at Huntsman Cancer Institute and assistant professor of biochemistry at the U of U also obtained funding.

The V Foundation has funded cancer research since 1994 when basketball coach Jim Valvano partnered with ESPN. Its mission is to achieve "Victory Over Cancer" through their support of research nationwide.

Doug Grossman, MD, PhD
Doug Grossman, MD, PhD

The Translational Award Program supports research that leads to a clinical trial. Grossman plans to use this grant to develop a new, non-invasive way to detect skin cancer. He will receive $200,000 per year for the next three years.

"There is a clear need for a new diagnostic approach that can inform patients and their physicians whether a particular lesion should be biopsied and whether an evaluation is urgent if the lesion is likely to be invasive. Currently, there are no non-invasive methods to accomplish this," says Grossman. "This award will allow us to develop a new test based on micro-RNAs that can be recovered simply on adhesive tape from suspicious skin lesions."

Conan Kinsey, MD, PhD
Conan Kinsey, MD, PhD

Kinsey has been awarded $100,000 per year for the next two years through the Clinical Scholar Program. He will use this grant to conduct a trial for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

"The current overall survival statistics for pancreatic cancer, once patients are diagnosed, is only about a year," says Kinsey. "The more therapies we can come up with for patients, the further we can extend overall survival for patients. Doing more targeted therapies can also make treatment more tolerable, so patients don't have as many side effects."

During this trial, Kinsey and his team will try a new therapy, along with chemotherapy. In smaller trials, his team has found that this treatment is easier on patients' bodies, more accessible, and improves outcomes.

Keren Hilgendorf, PhD
Keren Hilgendorf, PhD

Hilgendorf will also receive $100,000 per year for the next two years from the V Foundation. She will use this award to study the link between breast cancer and obesity.

"Obesity is a known risk factor for 13 types of cancer. This includes breast cancer, which is the second most common cancer among women in the USA, affecting 1 in 8 women and leading to more than 40,000 deaths a year" says Hilgendorf. "This award will allow us to study the dangerous cross-talk between breast cancer cells and the surrounding obese fat pad to identify new screening and therapy strategies."

Learn more about the V Foundation cancer research grants.

These studies are supported by the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute, including P30 CA042014, the V Foundation, and Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

Cancer touches all of us.