Research Highlights Report - 2013

From the director’s chair

Welcome to The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s inaugural research highlights report. As its name implies, At The Bench, which we hope to publish annually, is meant to provide readers with a bird’s-eye view of new and noteworthy observations from our basic science deck. Our research faculty may seldom interact directly with patients, but their contributions are equally important in bridging the chasm between cancer’s many faces – some as yet unrevealed – and what we currently understand of these multi-faceted malignancies. 

At KU Cancer Center, our faculty grants and contracts are coalesced around four research programs: 

In this issue of At The Bench, colon cancer occupies the spotlight: researchers Shrikant Anant, Kristi Neufeld, Dan Dixon and Shahid Umar are studying this disease from different perspectives and, together, fostering vibrant science. We are also excited about ongoing studies from the laboratory of Danny Welch that implicate – for the first time – mitochondrial DNA in the puzzle of predisposition toward the likes of cardiovascular disease and metastatic cancer.  

Since becoming the 67th cancer center nationwide to earn National Cancer Institute designation in 2012, we have recruited a number of outstanding new investigators, continued to expand our efforts in drug discovery and development, and completed our strategic planning process. Our goals for the year ahead include strengthening translational research through further strategic recruiting, expanding philanthropic support and decreasing the incidence and impact of cancer throughout the region, by working with our state government and a broad coalition of advocacy organizations. 

No report of our accomplishments, in basic research or otherwise, would be complete without acknowledging the support we already enjoy, which even the NCI site visit team and subsequent report noted as “truly extraordinary.” We are extremely grateful for the strong and sustained advocacy we have received from The University of Kansas, the state of Kansas, the citizens of Johnson County, the Kansas Masonic Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, the Kansas Bioscience Authority and hundreds more donors across the country.

When it comes to cancer, there is always talk about finding better therapies – but first, we need a road map of the molecular and mechanistic details that comprise this complex foe. These stories in At The Bench illustrate the critical nature of basic research in getting us there and are, we hope, the first of many more to come. 

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