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Ohio University Receives $1.7M Grant for Research on Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

By: Sarah Jackson
Posted: Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has awarded Ohio University scientists Shiyong Wu, PhD, and Lingying Tong, PhD, a 5-year $1.7 million grant to advance research on prevention and treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers. Dr. Wu is Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Director of the university’s Edison Biotechnology Institute, and Dr. Tong is Assistant Investigator at the Edison Biotechnology Institute.

Drs. Wu and Tong plan to study how solar ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) exposure triggers skin cancer and how it can be prevented. Previous research has shown that UVB can impact multiple biologic processes in the body. “The problem with UVB is it affects so many different pathways,” complicating scientists’ efforts to block it from activating cancer growth, Dr. Wu explained in an Ohio University press release.

Previous studies by Dr. Wu’s lab have found a possible target, constitutive nitric oxide synthase, which plays an important role in how the body regulates its response to UVB exposure. The problem with constitutive nitric oxide synthase, Dr. Wu found, is it controls a signaling pathway that triggers cell damage but also a second pathway that helps the cell survive the attack. Some of the surviving damaged cells eventually could become cancer cells, Dr. Wu proposed.

The new 5-year study will provide a more detailed analysis of the molecular mechanisms behind this constitutive nitric oxide synthase activity. Understanding the biochemical process will allow Dr. Wu’s research team to explore candidates for skin cancer prevention and treatment. The scientists are aiming to test the efficacy of existing drugs on the market, as well as various natural products. According to Dr. Wu, natural products may prove to be safer for personal health and the environment than sunscreens made from synthetic compounds.



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