The American Cancer Society recently announced its latest round of multi-year grants for cancer research in Colorado and all the awardees are University of Colorado faculty.

ACS has approved funding for six grants totaling approximately $3.9 million.

Five of the grantees are University of Colorado Cancer Center investigators. They are:

  • Jill Litt, PhD, University of Colorado Boulder, $986,000, starting Jan. 1, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2020
  • Traci R. Lyons, PhD, University of Colorado Denver|Anschutz Medical Campus, $792,000, starting Jan. 1, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2020
  • Chad G. Pearson, PhD, at the University of Colorado Denver|Anschutz Medical Campus, $792,000, starting Jan. 1, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2020
  • Jennifer Richer, PhD, University of Colorado Denver|Anschutz Medical Campus, $450,000, starting Jan. 1, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2019
  • Isabel Schlaepfer, PhD, University of Colorado Denver|Anschutz Medical Campus, $792,000, starting Jan. 1, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2020

Jill Litt, PhD, is investigating cancer prevention from a nutritional and active living perspective. Eating a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables is an important part of cancer prevention along with being active. But some people do not have access to healthy food and outdoor spaces that encourage activity. Litt will work with community gardeners, along with people on a waiting list to participate in the garden, to measure health-related behavior change relevant to controlling and preventing cancer among a multi-ethnic, low income population of adults.  Litt hopes to establish a feasible and scalable intervention that will help communities and individuals make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

Traci Lyons, PhD, is studying ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or pre-invasive breast cancer in young women, who are at high risk for DCIS progression to invasive cancer. She has uncovered a molecule that is highly expressed in invasive breast cancers, SEMA7A. SEMA7A appears to be associated with recurrence and metastasis of breast cancer for women regardless of stage, age, and/or subtype. Lyons hopes to uncover therapies targeting SEMA7A to reduce DCIS progression and metastasis.

As a cell biologist, Chad Pearson, PhD, is studying cancer at the cellular level. He is researching cell division and what causes the gain and loss of chromosomes in cancer cells (many cancer cells do not have the correct number of chromosomes). Pearson’s work will investigate complex problems in cancer formation and progression that will hopefully lead to new avenues against the disease.

The University of Colorado Cancer Center is the recipient of an Institutional Research Grant from the American Cancer Society. The grant, headed by Jennifer Richer, PhD, provides funding to junior faculty members who have not yet obtained large national grants, to help jumpstart their cancer research careers. Following a formal review process, the school awarded five pilot grants, which focus on various types of cancer and a range of aspects tied to cancer.

Isabel Schlaepfer’s research targets the ability of prostate cancer cells to use lipids for energy. She determined that lipids help sustain the growth of prostate cancer and when the lipid burning ability is targeted, these cancer cells eventually die. She is working to understand more about this phenomenon with the hope of uncovering long-term effective therapies for metastatic prostate cancer. Schlaepfer also hopes to improve the efficacy of anti-androgen deprivation therapies that are currently used to treat prostate cancer.

Courtney Jones, PhD, also is receiving an ACS grant. She is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of CU Cancer Center investigator Craig Jordan, PhD. Jones’ research project focuses on leukemia stem cells, which are a biologically distinct cell type within leukemia that are not killed by current therapies and contribute to disease recurrence. Specifically, she is looking to identify different characteristics that leukemia stem cells depend on to survive.  Jones’s goal is to uncover novel therapies that target leukemia stem cells which could hopefully provide a future cure for leukemia. The Denver Broncos along with an anonymous donor are helping to support this research though the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society is the largest non-government, not-for-profit funding source of cancer research in the United States. ACS is currently funding 20 cancer research grants in Colorado totaling more than $9.3 million.

Since 1946, the American Cancer Society has funded research and training of health professionals to investigate the causes, prevention, and early detection of cancer, as well as new treatments, cancer survivorship, and end of life support for patients and their families. In those 70 years, the American Cancer Society’s extramural research grants program has devoted more than $4.5 billion to cancer research and has funded 47 Nobel Prize winners.