News, Science and Health Round-Up

September 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Civil Rights Activist Visits the University 

As a key activist in the Civil Rights, Slyvia Mendez visited the University to discuss her childhood in California and her trials in desegregating schools on the west coast, reports the Red & Black. After continuing through a high-profile law-suit, Mendez v. Westiminster in 1945, Mendez helped to pave way for Brown vs. Board of Education.

Professor Receives Money for Cancer Research

Eileen Kennedy, a professor from the University’s of Georgia College of Pharmacy was granted a $570,000 award for research granted by the National Institute of Health. The award will cover research and testing for three-years as Kennedy explores more on the issues and spread of breast cancer, reports the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

Office of Student Conduct Partners with Campus, Local Police 

The Red & Black reports that the Office of Student Conduct has the right to investigate any action of a student from information learned from police reports or any signed or anonymous complaints. Two members of the Student Government Associated have already undergone the necessary consequences enacted through such accounts.

UGA Alumna Receives MacArthur Foundation Fellowship 

A.E. Stallings, an Alumna of the University, is one of 22 selected fellows to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, also known as the “genius award.” Stallings was recognized for her work as poet and translator, reports UGA Today.

Students Show Trouble in Deciding Major: Money or Passion 

Some students at the University of Georgia are now deciding the fate of their future by earning a degree in majors with a more promising future and releasing efforts in having a career geared towards their passion. The current economic times have some students weighing their options and thinking strategically about the future, reports the Red & Black.






News, Science and Health Round-Up

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

UGA Research Team Receives $500K NIH Grant To Develop Interactive Learning Tools, reads a Targeted News Service headline. The small business grant, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, is for researchers to develop interactive educational software for high school students.

Ga. university system eyeing campus mergers
Atlanta Business Chronicle reports the University System of Georgia will consider merging some of its smaller colleges in an effort to save money in the 35-campus system.

UGA seeks funding for new vet teaching hospital
Education officials are asking Gov. Nathan Deal to approve a funding request for a new veterinary medicine teaching hospital at the University of Georgia, reports the Associated Press.

AthFest, UGA win award for tourism
The Athens Banner-Herald reports AthFest and the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute received the Al Burris Award for Creative Expression at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism for their creative and innovative iPhone app for the AthFest music and arts festival.

UGA toughens sexual harassment policy, reads an Athens Banner-Herald headline. The new policy explicitly defines sexual violence as a violation of UGA policy.

UGA Researcher Making Strides to Catch Cancer Early

November 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Dr, Michael Pierce hopes to create a blood test to detect pancreatic, ovarian, breast, and colorectal cancers.

“Disappointment is my daily bread,” read the first slide of Michael Pierce’s presentation.

The slide was met with a groan of recognition from about twenty students and faculty members in Emory University’s Whitehead Auditorium, where Pierce presented his research findings on Oct. 7.

The quote comes from Oswald Avery, the physician-scientist who discovered that genes were made up of DNA but died before the significance of his work was widely recognized. Pierce used the slide because he expects it to take years for his work, like Avery’s, to really take hold and make a difference.

Known as “Hawkeye,” Pierce is a professor of cancer research and director of the University of Georgia Cancer Center. He is also a leader in the effort to develop accurate, affordable blood tests for detecting various tumors. An experimental blood test currently exists for colorectal cancers, and Pierce’s findings could open the door to earlier detection of breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers as well.

“Dr. Pierce’s work is world-famous in exploring the functional roles of glycoprotein glycans in tumor biology,” said Emory biochemist Richard Cummings, who invited Pierce to speak.

Glycans are sugars that coat the outside of a cell. Pierce’s research team discovered that they change shape after cells become cancerous, and that enzymes release glycoproteins into the bloodstream. Pierce is currently working on a way to identify cancer-related glycoproteins in the blood.

“If we can make specific tests for them, then we have a shot at having some tools to predict early cancers,” said Pierce. “The overall goal of this is to turn cancer into a sort of chronic disease, something that can be treated and isn’t a death sentence.”

An inexpensive blood test for these telltale glycoproteins could help predict a patient’s risk of developing cancer. Doctors could then advise patients to take more expensive tests, such as undergoing a PET-scan or MRI.

“The imaging technologies are really growing by leaps and bounds, but you can’t screen people on $10,000 images,” said Dr. Pierce, “You gotta have a blood test that an insurance company will pay for.”

The primary use of Dr. Pierce’s research would be diagnosing cancer early, and its secondary use would be monitoring treatment effects. His lab is working on an intravenous cancer treatment, shown to have a positive effect in mice which were genetically altered to develop mammary tumors.

An enzyme called GnT-V helps glycoproteins form on the surface of cancerous cells. The Pierce team gave the mice intravenous doses of an antibody that blocks the enzyme’s activity.

Mammary tumors in the treated mice showed up 10 weeks later than tumors in untreated mice, and expected. Ten weeks for a mouse equals about 10 years for a person.

“By knocking out GnT-V in these cases, we’re delaying the onset of the tumor,” said Pierce.

In addition to his findings with mice, Dr. Pierce was able to identify glycoproteins in human breast cancer samples supplied by oncologist Ruth O’Regan. O’Regan, director of Emory’s Translational Breast Cancer Research Program, provided samples from breast cancer patients at Emory.

Getting those samples proved complicated. To make sure that the rights and privacy of the tissue donors were protected, the Institutional Review Board at UGA and at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute had to approve Pierce’s proposal. To make matters worse, there was an upheaval at Emory’s oncology department.

“Emory had fired everybody,” said Dr. Pierce, “It literally took us over a year to get Emory to approve of giving us the tissue.”

At this point, with everything running a year behind schedule, Pierce took Avery’s words to heart. The rule of thumb is that it takes about ten years for a lab discovery to become medical practice, if it ever does. For Pierce, who lost his father to cancer in 1982, time does not come cheap.

The next step for Pierce’s lab is extracting breast cancer stem cells from patient samples and implanting them into mice. As the proportion of grants funded by the National Institutes of Health continues to decline, Pierce is striving to write the “perfect proposal.”

“It’s a combination of being at the right place and the right time and having the preliminary data to say, hey, we can do this,” he said.