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WVCTSI funds two new cancer treatment projects

Monday, January 30, 2017

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia has the third highest cancer death rate in the nation, and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health estimates that there will have been 11,770 new cancer cases in 2016. To address this wide-reaching problem the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI) has funded two new cancer treatment projects through its Launch Pilot Grant Program.

The first funded project is titled “Targeting SHP2 for the Treatment of HER2-Positive Breast Cancer.” Yehenew Agazie, Ph.D., associate professor with the West Virginia University (WVU) Department of Biochemistry, will serve as the principal investigator for this project that aims to support the efficacy of targeting the SHP2 enzyme in the treatment and curing of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) breast cancer.

HER2 accounts for between 20 and 30 percent of all breast cancer cases. Current therapies have provided significant benefits to patients, however the eventual development of resistance to these therapies has become a significant clinical problem. This project will attempt to cure HER2 breast cancer by targeting the SHP2 enzyme that is responsible for stimulating the expression of potential cancer causing genes.

The second funded project, “G-CSF/GM-CSF Purification for the Treatment of Chemotherapy-Induced Neutropenia,” is being led by Mariette Barbier, Ph.D., assistant professor in the WVU Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cell Biology.  This project aims to more efficiently produce and purify the chemokines G-CSF and GM-CSF currently used to replenish bone marrow cells and Neutrophil counts essential to patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Neutropenia is a condition where individuals have a low level of immune system cells known as neutrophils. This condition is the most common clinical complication of cancer treatment with radiation and chemotherapy. Patients suffering from neutropenia have a higher risk of infection, 60 percent of which are life threatening and require hospitalization. The results from this study could allow for the production of larger amounts of the therapeutic drugs used to combat this condition at a lower cost.

“Funding innovative cancer projects like these are a crucial step forward in targeting one of WVCTSI’s four priority health areas,” said Sally Hodder, M.D., WVCTSI Director.

The Launch Pilot Grant Program was created in July 2015 to accelerate the translation of intellectual property developed by WVCTSI researchers to the market.

“To have the most impact, science cannot stay locked away in a lab, but needs to be on the market where it can help people,” said Hodder. “The Launch Pilot Program is a great way to accelerate the path from discovery to market availability.”

WVCTSI Background

In August 2012, the WVCTSI was awarded a $19.6 million IDeA Clinical and Translational grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences titled “West Virginia IDeA CTR” [Institutional Development Award for Clinical and Translational Research, 1U54RR033567-02; Hodder (Principal Investigator)] to support WVCTSI’s mission of building clinical and translational research infrastructure and capacity to impact health disparities in West Virginia.

This grant was matched by a $33.5 million commitment from several West Virginia entities to create a total funding of $53.1 million to recruit 24 clinician scientists and provide infrastructure core support in biostatistics, bioinformatics, community engagement and outreach, clinical research education and mentoring, ethical and regulatory knowledge support, and pilot grants to grow clinical and translational research in the state.



im 1/30/17


Ian Moore

West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute