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Cancer Center Receives Grant to Tackle Liver Cancer

Posted on | August 26, 2011 | Comments Off

Scientists from the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center and The Queen’s Medical Center received a five-year $2.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop novel methods that can better detect liver cancer through the joint analysis of gene expression and imaging data of the liver. Co-leaders of the study are Mānoa Assistant Professor Gordon Okimoto and Sandy Kwee, director of positron emission tomography research at The Queen’s Medical Center.

Researchers will utilize positron emission tomography, or PET, to measure the levels of specific molecules in the body that have the potential to detect the presence of liver cancer. Additionally, they will profile global gene expression patterns in cancer-prone and normal tissue samples obtained from the imaged liver and create a catalog of novel cancer-related molecules that may aid in the early detection of liver cancer and serve as drug targets for the personalized treatment of the disease.

“By improving our ability to detect liver disease and cancer at an earlier stage, we can greatly reduce deaths and improve patient outcomes,” says Kwee.

Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. Its incidence is rising in the U.S., particularly in Hawaiʻi where incidence and death rates are the highest nationally. People infected with hepatitis viruses are more prone to developing liver cancer than the rest of the population, and some of the highest hepatitis rates in the world exist in Asia. Consequently, Asian immigrants who move to Hawaiʻi are more likely to be carriers of the virus.

“Competition for federal funding of cancer research is intense, and we are fortunate to receive this award,” says Okimoto. “This grant represents collaborative research at its best and showcases the high level of science that we are conducting here in Hawaiʻi.”

Fellow investigators include UH Cancer Center’s Linda Wong, Brenda Hernandez, Naoky Tsai and Owen Chan.

Read the news release.

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