Sarah Judge, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, has received a $2.4 million, five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to study the role of a key protein in driving cancer cachexia.
Cancer cachexia, which is highly prevalent in cancers of the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract, is a frequent complication of cancer involving muscle wasting and weakness. The breakdown of muscle tissue reduces patients’ physical function and worsens their quality of life. It also often negatively impacts their ability to withstand aggressive conventional cancer treatments and contributes to decreased survival. There are no known effective therapies to preserve or reverse the loss of muscle mass in patients with cancer.
In the new study, Judge’s team will investigate the role of cellular communication network factor 2, also known as connective tissue growth factor, in driving cachexia and muscle dysfunction. The protein is produced by pancreatic tumors and in skeletal muscles in response to pancreatic cancer.
The researchers hypothesize that the findings will explain key tissue-specific mechanisms of muscle wasting and weakness associated with cancer, which could inform the development of new treatments.
Judge, a member of the UF Health Cancer Center’s Cancer Therapeutics & Targeting research program, is collaborating on the new study with co-investigators Andrew Judge, Ph.D., Elisabeth Barton, Ph.D. and Feng Yue, Ph.D.