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UCLA awarded grants for cancer research


Reported $9.1 million

The UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has received $9.1 million in grants from the National Cancer Institute for early detection research.

The two grants will go toward advancing liquid biopsy technologies that are supposed to improve treatment outcomes and reduce the number of deaths caused by cancer.

“With the support from the grants, we will be advancing current tests by creating comprehensive approaches that combines multi-modality information to detect liver, colorectal, liver, lung, and stomach cancer early,” said lead principal investigator on the grants Jasmine Zhou, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and scientist in the Jonsson Cancer Center.

One of the grants will be used to develop and validate a method to integrate blood, imaging, and clinical data for early detection of liver cancer. The principal investigators on the research are  Zhou, along with Dr. Steven-Huy Han, Dr. Samuel French and Dr. Vatche Agopian from the Geffen School of Medicine and Jonsson Cancer Center.

The leading cause of cancer-related deaths is liver cancer. Obesity and alcohol abuse are leading factors in increased cases of liver cancer. However progress has been made in reducing cancer mortality overall.

“The ultimate goal is to contribute to reducing the high mortality associated with liver cancer,” said Han.

The UCLA team also consists of Dr. Wenyuan Li and Weihua Zeng from pathology and lab medicine, Dr. Frank Alber from microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics, Dr. Jihane Benhammou, Dr. Gina Choi, Dr. Mohamed El Kabany, Dr. Sammy Saab, Dr. Akshay Shetty, and Dr. Jasleen Singh from hepatology, Dr. Sarah Dry from pathology, Dr. Kevin King, Dr. David Lu, Dr. Steven Raman, Dr. Kyung Sung and Dr. Holden Wu from radiology.

The other grant is being used to focus on improving the early detection of various cancers using the cell-free DNA methylome to detect and locate colon, gastric, liver, and lung cancers.

Preliminary studies have already produced promising results. Jasmine Zhou, Wenyuan Li and Dr. Robert Bresalier from MD Anderson Cancer Center are the key researchers for the studies.

“If successful, this test will be transformative in fighting against these types of cancers,” said Li.

The UCLA team also includes Han, Alber, Zeng, as well as Dr. Shuo Li from pathology and lab medicine, and Dr. Ashley Prosper from radiology.