Monday, July 7, 2008

Emory Researcher Earns $600,000 Grant for Brain Tumor Research

Erwin Van Meir, PhD, professor of neurosurgery and hematology and medical oncology, Emory University Winship Cancer Institute, has earned a three-year, $600,000 research grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation.

The grant was awarded to fund Van Meir's research into the role of Galectin-3 (Gal3) in brain cancer. Gal3 is a protein that binds certain sugar molecules onto other proteins.

In Van Meir's laboratory, unpublished studies have revealed that activation of p53, a major tumor suppressor gene, induces Gal3 secretion. The release of Gal3 can induce the death of a variety of tumor cells, including brain tumor cells through apoptosis, a cell suicide program.

"Remarkably, normal cells remained unaffected, suggesting that Gal3 may be useful for tumor therapy," says Van Meir.

"We want to determine whether systemic delivery of recombinant Gal3 can be used for glioma therapy in a mouse model," says Van Meir. "This grant will enable us to advance these studies, which may lead to development of novel therapeutic agents which would then be tested in clinical trials for treatment of patients with malignant gliomas and other solid tumors. We have a long way to go, but these results are very promising."

The Goldhirsh Foundation was established in 2000 and is devoted to providing support for innovative brain tumor research. The Foundation was established by Bernard Goldhirsh, the founder and publisher of Sail and Inc. magazines. Mr. Goldhirsh was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2000. Since his death in 2003, the Foundation's board of directors has been shaping a grantmaking program that reflects his values and entrepreneurial spirit. Grants are awarded through a competitive, peer-reviewed process.

"Support from private foundations such as the Goldhirsh Foundation is critical to bringing forward new ideas, which may have high payoff but do not yet meet criteria for traditional governmental sources of funding," says Van Meir. "We are grateful to the Foundation for its support, and we feel privileged to be part of this process."

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