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August 20, 2002


Emory, Winship Cancer Institute Researchers Study Cellular Responses to Environmental Stress

Five Emory and Winship Cancer Institute (WCI) investigators will collaborate on a series of studies that could have direct relevance to our understanding of how cancer develops in humans.

The project, "Cellular Responses to Genotoxic Stress," is funded by The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and is comprised of five separate but collaborative research initiatives, each investigating a different aspect of DNA repair, damage tolerance, and damage prevention in response to exposures to radiation or chemical agents that can corrupt cellular DNA. NIEHS is funding the collaboration for $1.2 million for 2002-2003 and will support this project each year at a similar level for a total of five years.

"The genetic material of all organisms is subject to a daily barrage of physical and chemical insults coming from the environment or produced by normal cellular metabolism," said Paul Doetsch, Ph.D., Emory Professor of Biochemistry and Radiation Oncology and Interim Associate Director for Laboratory Research, WCI. "These genotoxins can change the chemical structure of DNA components and its coding properties, which can set the stage for various biological consequences, including cell death, cell mutation, and, in the case of humans, the development of cancer."

The "Cellular Responses to Genotoxic Stress" project will employ yeast and bacterial model systems to address several important aspects of strategies used by organisms to resist the introduction and effects of DNA damage. The DNA damage-resistance strategies to be analyzed will include DNA repair, damage tolerance, and direct prevention pathways. Previous work has demonstrated that these pathways are similar in most species, including humans. Therefore, the studies are expected to contribute to scientists' understanding of how cancerous cells develop in humans.

"We intend to characterize the interacting and complementary networks of systems that operate at different levels during exposure to DNA-damaging events," said Dr. Doetsch who is the principal investigator of the entire project.

In addition to Dr. Doetsch, the four Emory investigators participating in this program project are: Gerald Shadel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biochemistry; Wolfram Siede, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute; Bernard Weiss, M.D., Professor of Pathology; and Yoke Wah Kow, Ph.D., Professor of Radiation Oncology.

The NIEHS is one of 25 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health. NIEHS seeks to reduce the burden of human illness from environmental causes by understanding how various environmental elements interrelate. The NIEHS funds and conducts multidisciplinary biomedical research programs, prevention and intervention efforts, and communication strategies that encompass training, education, technology transfer and community outreach.

As a leader in cancer patient care and research, Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute (WCI) offers cancer patients new therapies, including more than 200 clinical trials for all tumor types and stages of cancer. WCI also serves as the coordinating center for a vast array of resources in medical, surgical, and radiation oncology, diagnostic imaging, and the subspecialties of cancer care throughout Emory University--from blood and bone marrow stem cell transplants to internationally recognized breast reconstruction.

For more information on The Winship Cancer Institute, log on to our website at or call 888-WINSHIP (888-946-7447).

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