Cancer Institute

  • Dr. Gail Megason, (left) director of the Children's Cancer Center, discusses clinical research in pediatrics with Dr. Lucio Miele, (center) Cancer Institute director, and Dr. Kounosuke Watable, Cancer Institute associate director of basic research.

    Dr. Gail Megason, (left) director of the Children's Cancer Center, discusses clinical research in pediatrics with Dr. Lucio Miele, (center) Cancer Institute director, and Dr. Kounosuke Watable, Cancer Institute associate director of basic research.

    Cancer Research Growing at UMMC

    More than 120 researchers, physicians, medical and doctoral students and community leaders interested in cancer research attended the Cancer Institute’s first Cancer Research Day in November 2012.

    The group, all with the goal of curing cancer, heard speakers from the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s cancer research, pharmacy, pharmacology and radiation biology programs, the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, and Tougaloo College.

    “This gave everybody a sense of how broad our research portfolio really is,” said Cancer Institute director, Dr. Lucio Miele. “And, it allowed for more collaboration between campuses.”

    New collaborations are a key result of the day, said Dr. Kounosuke Watabe, the Cancer Institute’s associate director of basic science. “It removed some of the barriers of distance,” he said, explaining some researchers from Oxford and Jackson found new ways to work together to solve some problems.

    “It was great for informing each other of what types of research we were doing,” said Dr. David Pasco, director of the Cancer Drug Discovery Core, with laboratories in the National Center for Natural Products Research at Ole Miss.

    Along with finding new working partners, the day generated a new level of excitement and interest in cancer research, Dr. Watabe said. Attendance was higher than expected and people from several university campuses came.

    No one entity has the means to find a cure for every cancer, so collaboration is essential to find cancer’s roots and then seek ways to halt it, Dr.Miele said. Already the Cancer Institute works with researchers at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Jackson State University, Tougaloo College, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. Â During Cancer Research Day, he said, “there was a very clear surge in collaborative discussions.”

    Collaborations with state colleges are important, he said, to take advantage of the expertise, equipment and interest in cancer treatment within the state. For example, a chemist at a state university may want to do research on a cancer-related subject but need to work with a biologist and/or physician to take their findings to the next level. And, a researcher here may need the power of a super computer elsewhere to process research data.

    Cancer Research Day served many purposes, Dr. Miele and Dr. Watabe said:

    • It gave students and young researchers a chance to present posters depicting their research and to discuss it, training for speaking at later events.
    • It allowed people with similar research interests to form collaborations, often as they discussed research by a poster.
    • It energized researchers who got a chance to see a very broad cancer research picture and how their work fits into it.
    • It allowed community partners, those who fund research and those who may participate in developing drugs, to see what is going on here.

    The emphasis on sharing was demonstrated early. After some speakers finished a synopsis of their work, several who listened gathered with questions about how they could collaborate. “Can you run this test?” “Can you run it this way?” “How do I reach you?”

    Next year, the two agree, they want more. Dr. Watabe hopes for even more speakers, more attendees from other state universities, more students interested in research and signs of greater collaboration between physicians and basic scientists.

    Dr. Miele said he hopes to see more people present a synopsis of their ongoing work. Twenty-two did this year. Forty had posters this year. Next year he wants more. Cancer Institute affiliates from two outside campuses came this year, next year he wants more.

    Next year, Dr. Miele said, he also hopes the Cancer Institute can spend more time pinpointing research results in several promising areas including a possible new treatment for triple negative breast cancer, ways to lower breast cancer recurrence and prevent the effects of obesity on breast cancer, better ways to identify cancer stem cells, ways to halt metastasis, more ways to find cancer cell characteristics that will tell doctors which medicine will work and better ways to identify people who are at higher risk of some cancers.

    “Three years ago you could have held this meeting in a telephone booth,” Dr. Miele said, gesturing to the crowd around him. “Today, more than 100 people involved in seeking a cure for cancer gathered to share their research and perspectives. We’ll build on their energy and expertise as we seek ever better ways to cure cancer, to care for those who have cancer and to teach all who want to know what we’ve discovered and where our research is leading.”



    Poster winners

    • Swati Dhar - "Epigenetic Mechanisms of PTEN Regulation by Resveratrol"
    • Fei Xing - "Reactive Astrocytes Promote the Growth of Cancer Stem-Like Cells of Metastatic Breast Tumor by Activating Notch Signaling in Brain" 
    • Sambad Sharma - "SPARC in Tumor Microenvironment Induces Dormancy of Prostate Cancer in Bone"
    • Kandis Backus - "A Novel Notch-Akt-NFkB Axis in Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells"
    • Patrice Penfornis - "Exosomes secreted by human Mesenchymal Stem Cells: miRNA and Proteomics Profiles"