Researchers at the UNM Health Sciences Center have received a $1.03 million Keck Foundation grant to fund a unique, interdisciplary team study of a class of steroid receptors and the role they may play in a number of hormone-sensitive cancers in men and women.

"Taken together, it is unlikely that there is a single team anywhere else that possesses the skill set and unique expertise of the team we've assembled in New Mexico," said UNM President Louis Caldera in making the announcement. The team is composed of researchers at UNM in the School of Medicine and College of Pharmacy as well as scientists at New Mexico State University and Los Alamos Laboratories and the New Mexico Molecular Libraries Screening Center .

"For the past 6-7 years we've been developing unique technology for drug discovery in bioengineering research partnership," said Principal Investigator Larry Sklar, PhD. "As we've developed this technology, we've found that we wanted to work on a particular set of biological problems in women's cancers." A team led by Eric Prossnitz, PhD, has recently identified a new estrogen receptor that is present in many breast and endometrial cancers. They have begun to develop biological and molecular tools to target this receptor for cancer treatment.

Breast cancer affects over 200,000 women per year in the United States . Estrogen receptor status serves as both a prognostic as well as a therapeutic target in breast cancer.

The W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 and is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. It supports pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research. With the foundation's funding, the New Mexico researchers will team to create a laboratory to study this newly identified class of steroid receptors in animals as well as test novel therapeutic molecules based on unique radio isotopes that might be the basis of new therapeutic treatments in the future.

The newly identified steroid receptors may lead to new therapies in cancer treatments, said Sklar. "These receptors may well play a role in both estrogen and androgen-sensitive cancers. Our research has the potential of involving both genders and several types of cancers including endometrial and prostate cancers."

Principal Investigators for the project are:

UNMSchoolof Medicine:

Larry A. Sklar, Ph.D. Regents Professor of Pathology and Pharmacy

PI/Director Director of Basic Research, UNM Cancer Center

Director of Biotechnology Integration, UNM SOM/HSC

PI /Director, New Mexico Molecular Libraries Screening Center

Helen Hathaway, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Cell Biology and Physiology

Kimberly Leslie, M.D. Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Director, Maternal and Fetal Medicine

Co-Director, Research Program in Women's Cancers

Tudor Oprea, MD. Ph.D. Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Director, Division of Biocomputing

Eric Prossnitz, Ph.D. Professor, Cell Biology and Physiology

UNMCollegeof Pharmacy

Jeffrey Norenberg, Pharm.D. Associate Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences

Associate Director, N.M. Center for Isotopes in Medicine

New MexicoStateUniversity

Jeffrey Arterburn, Ph.D Professor of Chemistry

PI and Director NM INBRE

Los AlamosNational Laboratory

Robert Atcher, Ph.D. Program Mgr., Bioscience Div., Radiochemistry

Eugene J. Peterson Ph.D. Staff Member

Project Leader/Isotope Program Site Manager, Chemistry Division


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322