University of Georgia Cancer Center

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholars

The Georgia Cancer Coalition, an independent, not-for profit organization that aims to reduce cancer deaths in the state, has named 18 University of Georgia researchers Distinguished Cancer Scholars since the program’s inception in 2001.

The researchers receive $50,000 to $150,000 annually for five years to support their research efforts. The University of Georgia matches the coalition’s investment, with the goal of strengthening the state’s research talent, capacity and infrastructure.

Brian Cummings

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy; Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

Brian  Cummings

Components of cell membranes known as lipids can play critical roles in the processes that turn normal cells into cancerous cells. By understanding the changes these lipids undergo and the key molecules involved, Cummings aims to find new targets for drugs that inhibit the growth of tumors.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/brian_cummings/

Steve Dalton

Cellular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Molecular Cell Biology
Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scientist

Steve  Dalton

Stem cells have the ability to turn into any type of tissue in the body, and may one day be used to treat degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But when stem cells go awry, they share distinct similarities to tumors. Dalton is working to better understand these similarities in hopes that they may be exploited to halt the growth of tumors.

http://www.daltonlab.uga.edu/

Kevin Dobbin

Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Kevin  Dobbin

Microarray technology has revolutionized cancer research by allowing scientists to measure the expression of thousands of genes within healthy cells as well as tumors. Dobbin’s research focuses on modifying traditional statistical study design and analysis methods to accommodate such massive amounts of data. The goal is to accelerate the rate at which laboratory findings are translated into clinical tools that can be used to improve patient outcomes.

http://www.publichealth.uga.edu/epibio/about/directory/biostatistics/kevin_dobbin

Scott Dougan

Cellular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scientist

Scott  Dougan

The process by which a fertilized egg becomes a functioning organism is coordinated through a complex series of interactions among cells. Dougan is exploring these basic mechanisms and how miscommunication among cells sets the stage for cancer and birth defects.

http://cellbio.uga.edu/directory/faculty/scott-t-dougan

Natarajan Kannan

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Natarajan  Kannan

Many human cancers are associated with abnormal functioning of protein kinases- a large family of proteins that switch "on" and "off" signals required for cell growth and differentiation. Kannan's research is focused on understanding how genomic alterations (mutations) in protein kinases alters this on-off switch.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/directory/natarajan-kannan

Mandi Murph

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Mandi  Murph

Murph is working to better understand a cellular signaling pathway known as the lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) pathway that is involved in the progression of specific types of cancer. Drugs are under development targeting this pathway, and Murph’s research also aims to reveal their mechanisms of action to determine potential side effects before clinical trials and to maximize the likelihood of safe development.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/mandi_murph/

Vladimir Popik

Department of Chemistry, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Vladimir   Popik

Getting chemotherapy drugs to the right part of the body is crucial to making them work effectively and minimizing their side effects. Popik is working to create new chemotherapy drugs that are inactive in the dark but become active when irradiated by light of a specific wavelength. The goal is to use light to localize treatment to the tissue containing the malignant tumor while sparing the rest of the body from the drug’s toxic side-effects.

http://www.chem.uga.edu/people/faculty/popik

Walter K. Schmidt

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scientist
Associate Professor

Walter K. Schmidt

Schmidt is studying an enzyme that modifies and activates proteins, including those commonly associated with cancer development. By understanding the biochemical properties of the enzyme, known as the Ras Converting Enzyme, he hopes to eventually interfere with the ability of those proteins to cause cancer.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/wschmidt/

John Vena

Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

John  Vena

Vena is working to better understand the factors that influence the health of populations. He is currently studying occupational and environmental risk factors that impact cancers of the bladder, breast and lungs.

http://www.publichealth.uga.edu/epibio/about/directory/epidemiology/john_vena

Jai-Sheng Wang

Environmental Health Sciences, College of Public Health

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar
Professor & Department Head of Environmental Health Sciences

Jai-Sheng  Wang

Wang’s research focuses on studying the impact of environmental toxins on the formation of liver and esophageal cancers. He’s also exploring the role natural products and dietary supplements may play in preventing cancer in high-risk populations.

http://www.publichealth.uga.edu/ehs/about/directory/faculty/jia-sheng_wang

Lianchun Wang

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Center Distinguished Scholar
Assistant Professor

Lianchun  Wang

A molecule known as heparan sulfate plays critical roles in tumor growth, metastasis and blood vessel development. Wang is exploring the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which the molecule acts in cancer in hopes of revealing new ways to treat the disease.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/labs/wanglianchun

Lance Wells

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center

Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Adjunct Associate Professor of Chemistry
Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholar

Lance  Wells

Pancreatic cancer has the worst 5-year survival rate (1%) of any cancer, primarily due to a lack of early diagnostic tests. Wells is studying proteins and the sugars that adorn them in pancreatic ductal fluid from patients to find early diagnostic biomarkers. These biomarkers also have the potential to be targets for new therapeutic drugs.

http://www.ccrc.uga.edu/world/personnel/templateperson.php?uid=31

Ying Xu

Computer Science Department, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Director of UGA Bioinformatics Institute
Regents-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Professor
Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

Ying  Xu

Xu and his research team are analyzing thousands of tissue samples - both cancerous and non-cancerous - and comparing patterns of gene and protein expression and then using computational methods to predict protein secretion. The hope is to find differences that can be used to revolutionize early diagnostics by creating a blood test that accurately predicts whether a person has cancer.

http://csbl.bmb.uga.edu/~xyn/

Jason Zastre

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar
Assistant Professor

Jason  Zastre

Cell membrane transporters actively move compounds in and out of cells. Zastre is studying these transporters with the goal of maximizing the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs and reducing their toxic side effects.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/jason_zastre/

Shaying Zhao

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Shaying  Zhao

Colorectal cancer is known to have a strong genetic component, and Zhao is working to pinpoint the exact genes that play a role in the development and progression of the disease. Her work may ultimately help patients better understand their risk for colon cancer and may play a role in early detection.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/directory/shaying-zhao