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October 29, 2008

Purdue Cancer Center establishes breast cancer research group

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University is marking breast cancer awareness month in October with the creation of a collaborative research group to focus on ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

The Purdue Cancer Center brought together 10 of the top cancer researchers from the fields of biological science, medicinal chemistry, basic medical sciences and biomedical engineering to establish the group, said Timothy Ratliff, director of the Purdue Cancer Center.

"We need to approach this problem from multiple angles and incorporate different scientific fields if we are to be successful in eliminating this devastating form of cancer," he said. "Breast cancer is expected to be the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women this year, and we must work together to develop life-saving advances."

According to the National Cancer Institute, 182,460 new cases in women and 1,990 new cases in men are expected this year, and 40,480 deaths from the disease are expected.

"We wanted to create this direct line of communication and collaboration," said Sophie Lelièvre, working group leader. "As a National Cancer Institute-designated research facility, the Purdue Cancer Center has some of the top scientists in the field. By tapping into all of the members' strengths, we hope to develop new, more efficient and effective approaches to treatment and detection of breast cancer."

The group's mission is to increase knowledge to help prevent breast cancer, develop better early-detection techniques and improve treatment methods. Current members of the breast cancer research group include:

* Ignacio Camarillo, an assistant professor of biological sciences, who is working on defining the role of early onset obesity in breast cancer.

* Ji-Xin Cheng, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who is unraveling the molecular mechanisms that link a high-fat diet with breast cancer risk.

* Robert Geahlen, a professor of medicinal chemistry, who is studying the genes involved in tumor growth and ways to suppress tumor progression.

* Deborah Knapp, Purdue's McCall Professor of Veterinary Medicine, who is working on ways to develop a more effective and targeted therapy.

* James Leary, a professor of basic medical sciences and biomedical engineering, who is creating nanomedical approaches to breast cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.

* Sophie Lelièvre, an associate professor of cancer pharmacology, who focuses on the role of cellular structure and organization in breast cancer development, and ways to create new methods of early detection and prevention.

* Sulma Mohammed, an associate professor of comparative pathobiology, who is identifying sensitive biomarkers for early cancer detection.

* Nagendra Prasad, an assistant professor of basic medical sciences, who is targeting cell signaling mechanisms to reduce breast cancer risk and improve therapeutic responses in patients.

* David Riese, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, who is evaluating the role of specific proteins in malignancies and investigating proteins with anti-tumor properties.

* Dorothy Teegarden, a professor of foods and nutrition, who is studying the effect of nutrients in regulating the progression of cancer and the association between Vitamin D and a reduced risk for breast cancer.

The breast cancer research group plans to expand to include more members and is open to interested researchers, Lelièvre said.

Purdue Cancer Center is one of just seven National Cancer Institute-designated basic-research facilities in the nation. The center attempts to help cancer patients by identifying new molecular targets and designing future agents and drugs for effectively detecting and treating cancer.

Writer: Elizabeth Gardner, (765) 494-2081,

Sources:  Timothy Ratliff  (765) 494-9129,

Sophie Lelièvre,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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