University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Vermont Cancer Center




VCC Program Grant Award

The VCC provides an environment, research facilities, and infrastructure to support the initiation of partnerships for early stage and established VCC members throughout the College of Medicine, Fletcher Allen Health Care and the University of Vermont to pursue translational cancer programs. The VCC Program Grant (VCC PG) provides for $20,000, one-year awards that may be supported by matching funds from another source. Projects must demonstrate effectiveness of the scientists, behaviorists and physician investigator partnerships to collaboratively pursue translational investigation. These projects will translate discoveries from laboratory based, behavioral and population health science investigation to cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship efforts.

Current Recipients

Mapping the Effects of Mitotic Chromosome Organization on Interphase Genomic Architecture
Jason Stumpff, PhD, Mary Tang, MD
“The genome is arguably one of the most critical components of the cell. Its proper organization and function within the cell’s nucleus are necessary to control nearly all cellular processes. Both solid tumor and blood cancer cells frequently display abnormally organized genomes, which significantly contributes to uncontrolled cellular proliferation. Despite its importance to cancer progression, how cells normally maintain genomic organization and how it becomes disrupted in tumor cells remain key unanswered questions. The proposed work will utilize advanced microscopy and biochemical techniques to test a novel hypothesis regarding the mechanisms that maintain proper genomic organization. These studies will combine Dr. Jason Stumpff’s expertise in the basic mechanisms that spatially control the genome with Dr. Mary Tang’s clinical expertise in evaluating genomic abnormalities in cancer patient samples. These studies have broad implications for advancing our understanding of the mechanisms that control genomic function and how they become disrupted in cancer.”                                     

MicroRNAs as Preditctors of Breast Cancer Development in High Risk Women
Marie Wood, MD, Janet Stein, PhD, Jane Lian, PhD
“MicroRNAs are small RNAs that do not encode protein products. Recently, microRNAs have been measured in serum of breast cancer patients and found to correlate with miRNAs expressed in the tumors. However, no studies have assessed the potential of serum miRNAs as biomarkers of cancer risk, that is, as markers for predicting cancer years before a tumor is identified. We will develop the “risk” signature by profiling miRNAs in serum from high risk women who have developed breast cancer (serum collected 0.6- 8.6 years before diagnosis) and compare these to matched high risk women who have not yet developed breast cancer. The miRNAs that differ between the two groups will be part of a “risk” signature for breast cancer that has the potential to revolutionize how we assess risk, and thereby identify preventive approaches. This translational project will be accomplished by a strong collaboration between the “Stein/Lian group” with expertise regarding miRNAs and their functional activities and the “Wood Group” with expertise in breast cancer prevention and a large and well characterized database of women at increased risk for breast cancer. Future studies will focus on validating the signatures identified and linking the miRNAs identified to breast cancer development.”

Mitochondrial Mutations and Aggressiveness of Prostate Cancer
Mark Plante, MD, Steven Ades, MD, Janice Nicklas, PhD, Vernon Walker, DVM, PhD
“The scientific objective of the research is to determine if specific mutations or large deletions of the DNA of the mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell) cause prostate tumor cells to be more aggressive. These changes will be determined using new high-throughput DNA sequencing techniques. The hope would then be to develop a clinical assay for these mutation(s) in the mitochondrial DNA to screen early prostate biopsies to determine if the individual is likely to develop an aggressive tumor. This would greatly reduce death by finding future aggressive prostate tumors before they spread or become lethal. It would also impact the well-being of other men by reducing unneeded surgery in men testing negative for these mitochondrial mutations. This should help all men who have had a biopsy for elevated PSA levels.”

Pathways and Economics of Implementing New Technologies in Hereditary Colon Cancer Syndromes

Marc Greenblatt, MD, Christopher Jones, PhD, Christopher Koliba, PhD
“The last two decades have seen dramatic advances in the understanding of colon cancer genetics. About 3-5% of colon cancer is known to occur in people with a hereditary cancer syndrome, and over 20% occur in people with a family history of cancer that suggests a genetic susceptibility. The most common inherited condition increasing risk for colon cancer is called Lynch syndrome. Technologies that can diagnose Lynch syndrome include testing of tumor tissue and genetic testing looking for inherited mutations. Diagnosing Lynch syndrome and other hereditary colon cancers is important because cancers and deaths can be prevented by increased screening, aspirin therapy, and surgical treatment tailored to the patient’s circumstances. Diagnostic laboratory studies are evolving rapidly, and their costs are changing. The most efficient way to use new technologies to diagnose all cases of Lynch syndrome and other hereditary colon cancer is not known. In this study, a cancer geneticist, a health economist, and an expert in complex systems analysis will collaborate to examine the multiple pathways for diagnosing hereditary colon cancer and their costs, to maximize diagnostic accuracy and minimize costs of using advanced genetic technologies.”                

Last modified June 27 2014 01:38 PM