Five-year renewal recognizes Center of Biomedical Research Excellence

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Capping a decade of success in cancer research, the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a five-year, $5.5 million research grant to West Virginia University’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. The grant will support the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) for Signal Transduction and Cancer, led by Laura F. Gibson, Ph.D., of the WVU School of Medicine.

WVU’s CoBRE award is the third phase of a research program originally funded a decade ago.

“Winning Phase III funding is a recognition of the exemplary contribution that WVU scientists are making to the scientific community’s understanding of the basic mechanisms of cancer,” Christopher C. Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., chancellor for health sciences, said. “Since the establishment of our CoBRE in Signal Transduction, our faculty members have published approximately 300 scientific journal articles. That is an amazing record.”

Signal transduction is a complex process that governs how cells respond to external substances. Receptors on the cell’s surface react to the outside element by transmitting a signal into the interior of the cell, causing changes in cell function. When the normal signaling pathways in a cell are disrupted, it can lead to cancer and other diseases.

The first two phases of funding were aimed at nurturing the development of scientists in the early part of their academic research careers, Dr. Gibson said. “Seventeen investigators were funded during the initial two phases of the CoBRE award,” she said. “Phase I and Phase II awards also helped establish and strengthen several core facilities at the Health Sciences Center which are shared by many cancer researchers at the University.”

The core facilities and their leaders were an important part of the successful application for Phase III funding, Gibson added. Christopher Cuff, Ph.D., leads the Flow Cytometry Core; Karen Martin, Ph.D., leads the Microscope Imaging Facility and the Animal Models and Imaging Facility; Stephen Graber, Ph.D., leads the Protein Core; James Harner, Ph.D., leads the Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Core; and William Petros, Pharm.D., leads the Biospecimen Processing Core.

The third phase of the CoBRE, Gibson said, will allow the Cancer Center to develop research collaborations with other scientists across the University and elsewhere. “Investigators from diverse disciplines, departments and campuses across the state all have something important to contribute to cancer research. With this funding, we are able to make high-quality, sophisticated research tools more accessible to a wide variety of researchers.”

Gibson, who is deputy director of the Cancer Center, was recently named the first Alexander B. Osborn Distinguished Professor in Hematological Malignancies Research.

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
bc: 09-22-11