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Spring 2021 Pilot Project Winners Announced

Pilot Awards

July 23, 2021

The University of Kansas Cancer Center is pleased to announce the recipients of the Spring 2021 Pilot Project Awards. These awards support scientists with promising and innovative ideas that have the potential to be funded by extramural organizations such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI). With the support of the pilot project awards, investigators can produce preliminary data that may lead to additional funding. Each recipient receives $35,000 in funding.

Kevin Ault, MD, FACOG

Novel Markers for Cervical Cancer Screening

A pap smear is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women. Dr. Ault seeks to identify biomarkers that will improve the accuracy of pap smear tests, ultimately preventing more cases of cervical cancer. The findings from this study may help guide the development of new cervical cancer screening strategies, as well as build a more complete understanding of critical pathways involved in the development of the disease.

Dan Dixon, PhD

Colon Cancer Chemoprevention Through Inhibition of Exportin 1 (XPO1)

Selinexor and Eltanexor are a new class of drugs called Selective Inhibitors of Nuclear Export (SINEs) that specifically inhibit XPO1, a nuclear export protein frequently overexpressed in cancers, including colorectal cancer. The goal of Dr. Dixon’s research effort is to characterize this new class of drugs as chemoprevention agents in colorectal cancers arising from inherited APC mutations and inflammatory bowel disease.

Heather Nelson-Brantley, PhD, RN, NEA-BC

Optimizing Patient-Clinician Communication in Cancer Treatment and Palliative Care: An Exploration of the Use of Open Notes

Research in non-cancer settings suggests that shared clinical notes, also known as open notes, may be an important and novel approach to patient-centered communication, empowering patients and reducing healthcare inequities. Yet there is limited research in cancer treatment and none in palliative care. Dr. Nelson-Brantley’s pilot project will seek to understand open notes communication in cancer care, its potential to empower patients, improving health literacy and health outcomes.

Eduardo Rosa-Molinar, PhD

Elucidating and Disrupting de novo Glioblastoma Tumor Cell-Neuron Synapses

To advance understanding of glioblastoma multiforme malignant brain tumors affecting more than 100,000 Americans, Dr. Rosa-Molinar and his team will combine and take advantage of the power of tools including cAT, antibody multiplexing, human cerebral organoids, and fused glioblastoma multiforme spheroids. The results of the project will provide a first step in work to develop immunotherapies.

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