Research buzz: 'Provocative questions' about cancer to be answered?

  • Peter Searson
Peter Searson (Courtesy of Johns Hopkins,…)
August 31, 2012|By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

Description: Two Johns Hopkins University scientists were awarded one of the National Cancer Institute's first grants intended to answer what it calls "provocative questions" in cancer research. They will receive more than $500,000 over a year as they study how and why infections can cause certain types of cancer and how cancer spreads. Other "provocative questions" focus on how obesity contributes to cancer risk, why some cancers can be cured by chemotherapy alone, and why some tumors become malignant after years of being benign.

Researchers: Dr. Cynthia Sears, a professor of medicine and oncology who specializes in infectious disease, and Peter Searson, a materials science and engineering professor who is director of Hopkins' Institute for NanoBio Technology.

Stage of research: Sears will receive $236,480 this year to explore the ways common diarrheal bacteria and other microbes can cause colon cancer. Searson will receive $316,513 to find a new method of exploring the ways cancer spreads through metastasis, creating a way for scientists to artificially duplicate what happens when cancer spreads.

Implications: Sears says the infectious-disease research could help doctors better prevent and detect early stages of colon cancer. Searson's new method could help researchers more easily explore the biology of how tumor cells spread.

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