In March, the Florida Department of Health announced the award of 10 grants totaling $4.9 million to nine UF Health Cancer Center investigators. The grants were provided through the state’s Live Like Bella Pediatric Cancer Research Initiative, the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program and the Bankhead-Coley Research Program.
“The Florida Department of Health grants are stringently reviewed by peers from other states and only the most innovative and impactful projects are funded. Therefore, I am very proud of the accomplishments of the UF Health Cancer Center members in receiving such an array of grants this year,” said Jonathan Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center. “These projects each have the potential to make significant advances in the understanding of the molecular basis of cancer, as well as its prevention and treatment. This continues our mission to make a difference in the lives of the residents of Florida.”
LIVE LIKE BELLA
The Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation provides assistance and support to children and families affected by childhood cancer. It also funds innovative research with the hope that childhood cancer will become a treatable and curable disease. These grants pay homage to Bella Rodriguez-Torres who inspired people throughout the world during her six-year fight against cancer.
Lan Hoang-Minh, Ph.D.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Lan Hoang-Minh, Ph.D., a $250,000 Live Like Bella Pediatric Cancer Research Initiative grant.
Hoang-Minh’s study titled, “Combination immunotherapy for pediatric brain tumors,” aims to investigate the effects and underlying mechanisms of anti-PD-1 treatment administered before or after tumor resection; examine the efficacy of ACT using T cells devoid of PD-1 after CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing; and test the effects of combining those strategies in preclinical models of pediatric high-grade glioma and medulloblastoma.
Mingyi Xie, Ph.D.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Mingyi Xie, Ph.D., a $250,000 Live Like Bella Pediatric Cancer Research Initiative grant.
Xie’s study titled, “Target RNAs Induce MicroRNA Degradation in Apoptotic T Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Cells,” aims to understand how miR-221/222 degradation induced by Bim enhances dexamethasone sensitivity of T-ALL and to develop an innovative biochemical and computational protocol to globally identify sequences in different target mRNAs that can induce miRNA degradation in T-ALL.
Zhijian Qian, Ph.D.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Zhijian Qian, Ph.D., a $100,000 Live Like Bella Pediatric Cancer Research Initiative grant.
Qian’s study titled, “FOXM1 as a Therapeutic Target for MLL-Rearranged AMLs” aims to develop a novel strategy for a more effective treatment of MLL-r AMLs by selectively targeting the LSCs.
Raymond Mailhot, M.D., M.P.H.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Raymond Mailhot, M.D., M.P.H., a $250,000 Live Like Bella Pediatric Cancer Research Initiative grant.
Mailhot’s study titled, “Measuring the effects of brain radiotherapy and tumor on scholastic outcome” aims to determine the change in scholastic ability, as measured by FCAT scores, in the years leading to cancer diagnosis among local children with brain tumors treated at UF and determine the change in scholastic ability, as measured by FCAT scores, after treatment among local children with brain tumors treated with radiotherapy and whether the magnitude in change differs by race or ethnicity.
Jonathan Licht, M.D.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Jonathan Licht, M.D., a $250,000 Live Like Bella Pediatric Cancer Research Initiative grant.
Licht’s study titled, “NSD2 Mutation as Driver of Brain Invasion in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia” aims to determine genes that promote CNS infiltration of NSD2 E1099K cells and to determine gene expression changes in NSD2 E1099K cells upon exposure to brain microenvironment cells.
JAMES AND ESTHER KING BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAM
The James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program supports research initiatives that address the health care problems of Floridians in the areas of tobacco-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke and pulmonary disease.
Chengguo Xing, Ph.D.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Chengguo Xing, Ph.D., a $1,247,963 James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program grant.
Xing’s study titled, “Reducing tobacco-associated lung cancer risk: A randomized clinical trial of AB-free kava” aims to determine if kava is a novel, safe, and effective candidate in facilitating tobacco cessation and reducing tobacco-associated diseases, including lung cancer risk.
Daiqing Liao, Ph.D.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Daiqing Liao, Ph.D., a $948,874 James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program grant.
Liao’s study titled, “Novel mechanism of action and translational potential of the HDAC inhibitor SR-4370 for treating breast cancer” aims to determine whether new agents can enhance therapeutic effects of endocrine therapy (e.g., tamoxifen), chemotherapies (e.g., docetaxel) as well as HER2-targeted therapies.
WILLIAM G. BANKHEAD AND DAVID COLEY CANCER RESEARCH PROGRAM
The William G. Bankhead and David Coley Cancer Research Program works to advance progress towards cures for cancer through grants awarded through a peer-reviewed, competitive process.
Zhijian Qian, Ph.D.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Zhijian Qian, Ph.D., a $600,000 William G. Bankhead and David Coley Cancer Research Program grant.
Qian’s study titled, “The role of ALKBH5 in leukemogenesis” aims to investigate the role of ALKBH5 in the progression of AML induced by AML-ETO, and its role in the maintenance of leukemia stem cells/leukemia initiating cells; determine whether and how ALKBH5 regulates different sets of RNA sequences in subsets of AML, as well as normal blood stem cells; and determine the key mediators of ALKBH5 in subsets of AML by functional validation studies.
Andrew Judge, Ph.D.
The Florida Department of Health awarded Andrew Judge, Ph.D., a $600,000 William G. Bankhead and David Coley Cancer Research Program grant.
Judge’s study titled, “Ursolic acid as a countermeasure to cancer cachexia” aims to conduct a pre-clinical trial of ursolic acid in multiple mouse models of cancer cachexia.
Lusine Yaghjyan, Ph.D.
In collaboration with Moffitt Cancer Center, the Florida Department of Health awarded a $385,680 multi-PI grant from Bankhead and David Coley Cancer Research Program with Lusine Yaghjyan, Ph.D., (Co-PI) leading UF Health Cancer Center’s efforts.
Yaghjyan will provide her scientific input on all aspects of the study titled, “Biobanking for Breast Cancer Prevention and Disparity Research in Florida,” and supervise study logistics at the University of Florida, including data and biospecimen collection and coordination of their delivery to Moffitt Cancer Center.