Upcoming Events

Spring IAC Meeting
March 31, 2021
Zoom Virtual Meeting

Annual PSC Meeting
May 18, 2021
8:00 am to 2:00 pm CST
Zoom Virtual Meeting

Annual Summer Cancer Research Symposium
July 27-28, 2021
Zoom Virtual Meeting

Training Opportunity

2020 Partnership Research Summer Training Program   (PRSTP) 
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PRSTP 2020 Flyer

Latest in news

Cancer doesn’t care about equality, so this program encourages diverse scholars to care more about cancer

Poster and Abstract Award Winners 2019 at Cancer Research Symposium

Partnering Institutions

Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM)
Tuskegee University (TU)
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)

Contact - PI

James Lillard, PhD
Brian Rivers, PhD

Clayton Yates, PhD
Vivian Carter, PhD

Upender Manne, PhD  
Isabel Scarinci, PhD

Program Managers

 MSM: Jennifer Creighton
     TU: Chiquita Lee
  UAB: Thomas Ramsey, PhD




Pilot Project: Role of leptin-Notch axis in pancreatic cancer

MSM Lead: Ruben Gonzalez-Perez
UAB Lead: Chris Klug, PhD

This project will investigate: (1) whether obesity and leptin-Notch signaling are critical for pancreatic cancer (PC) development, PC stem cells (PCSC) and drug resistance; (2) whether PC from patients of different ethnicities respond differently to leptin signaling; and (3) whether the potent, non-toxic and novel antagonist of leptin signaling we developed, IONP-LPrA2, could be an effective adjuvant for chemotherapeutics used in PC treatment. Preliminary data show that leptin stimulates PC proliferation, PCSC self-renewal and impairs PC chemotherapeutic efficacy. These investigations will help to understand whether obesity and leptin-Notch signaling could cause PC health disparity, and will help the development of novel targeted therapies and improve PC chemotherapeutic efficacies, and advance our limited understanding of the roles of obesity, and leptin signaling in PC progression and chemoresistance.

Pilot Project: Altered Metabolic Switch and BRCA1-Associated Cancers

MSM Lead: Veena Rao, PhD
UAB Lead: Yuchang Fu, PhD

This project will explore the hypothesis that BRCA1 functions as a tumor suppressor through its sequestration of UBE21, a pivotal regulator of glucose transporter, resulting in regulated glucose uptake. Our recent results show that BRCA1 proteins bind to UBC9 and that the lack of binding by disease-associated mutant BRCA1 proteins resulted in deregulated Ubc9 levels and loss of growth suppression by BRCA1 proteins in TNBC. Based on these preliminary results we hypothesize that BRCA1 (by binding to Ubc9) regulates GLUT-4 facilitated glucose uptake and glycolysis resulting in tumor suppression of TNBC.

Pilot Project: Racial differences in exosome signaling promote tumor aggressiveness in African American breast cancer patients

TU Lead: Clayton Yates, PhD
UAB Lead: William Grizzle, MD, PhD

This project will delineate the role of the transcriptional repressor Kaiso, as the regulator of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and chemoresistance through the transfer of genetic and epigenetic material contained in exosomes. Others and we have found that AA patients have increased expression of markers related to EMT and that this is associated with a relapse of breast tumors from front-line therapy. We will determine Kaiso’s role in regulating a novel form of cellular communication.

Pilot Project: Racial Differences in Molecular Characteristics of Cervical Cancer and Response to Treatment

MSM Lead: Roland Matthews, MD
UAB Lead: Chandrika Piyathilake, MPH, PhD

The 5-year survival rates for cervical cancer (CC) are significantly lower for African American (AA) compared to Caucasian American (CA) women. Since the underlying differences in molecular characteristics of CCs as an explanation for disparities in mortality have received little or no attention, we propose to investigate whether such differences in CCs contribute to racial differences in survival.

Pilot Project: Dual Targeting Nanoscale Drug Delivery Systems for Treatment of Metastatic Prostate Cancer

TU Lead: Mohamed Abdalla, PhD
UAB Lead: Keshav Singh, PhD

Prostate cancer (PCa) is currently the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Therapeutic options for patients with metastatic hormone-refractory PCa are very limited. This project will focus on developing dual targeting nanoscale drug delivery systems (DT-NDDSs), which will utilize a combination of a panel of novel designed peptides with enhanced binding affinities to receptors on prostate cancer (PC) cells.

Pilot Project: Chemopreventive and Therapeutic Activity of Withania somnifera and its Mechanism of Action in Human Breast Cancer

TU: Dr. Karmal Kazal
UAB: Dr. Clinton Grubbs

This pilot project will test the chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activity of an extract of Withania somnifera in experimentally induced mammary tumors and in mice bearing xenografted tumors. In addition, its cytotoxicity to breast cancer cells in relation to their expression of estrogen receptors and its mechanism of action will be evaluated. Based on the preliminary findings, the primary hypothesis is that the root extract of WS will be effective in preventing and treating breast cancer and will enhance the anti-tumor efficacy of conventional chemotherapy drugs such as tamoxifen. Successfully completed, the findings of this project will provide important evidence of its safety for future clinical use. 

Pilot Project: BRCA1 Deficiency and Epithelial Ovarian Cancers 

MSM: Dr. Veena Rao
Dr. Charles Landen

This pilot project will determine the mechanistic and physiological significance of the interaction between BRCA1 and Ubc9 molecules in relation to their sub-cellular localization in ovarian cancer cells. Based on their preliminary results, they hypothesize that BRCA1, by binding to Ubc9, functions as a tumor suppressor and thereby inhibits growth of ovarian tumors. Also, in collaboration with William Grizzle, MD, PhD (a collaborator from UAB), these efforts will assess the clinical significance of expression of these proteins in human ovarian tissues and determine their value in early detection, drug screening, and predicting clinical outcomes.