$ 17 million liver cancer research grant goes to NCSU researchers


RALEIGH – NC State researchers have received a $ 17 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore a potential link between environmental contaminants and liver cancer.

Led by Cathrine Hoyo, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biological Sciences, the grant will fund the Southeastern Liver Health Study, a multi-institutional effort that will follow 16,000 people in North Carolina and Georgia for a period of up to five years. The project aims to determine whether exposure to environmental contaminants such as cadmium, alone or with other toxic metals and per- and poly-fluoroalkylated substances (PFAS), increases the risk of progression of liver disease to an early stage to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer.

Hoyo and his team designed the study after observing unusually high levels of HCC, which have a shorter survival time than many other cancers. The risk of liver cancer appears to be higher among ethnic minorities and in rural areas of the southern United States.

“HCC is one of those cancers that tend to be put on the back burner because the number of minorities in a single geographic area is just not enough to provide meaningful data, so studies cannot collect enough useful information specific to ethnic minorities, ”Hoyo said. . “So solving such a problem requires large studies like this. “

The NIH selected the project for funding as part of a larger effort to establish new cancer cohorts that could inform health research today and in the future. In addition to being the first large-scale project to examine the link between environmental contaminants, liver disease, and cancer in a residential and ethnically diverse population, this research will also result in a repository of data and samples that will provide the State of North Carolina and research at large. community with a valuable resource for studying HCC and other cancers in the future.

“This work will provide much needed data and samples for liver cancer research,” she said. “It will also establish a huge data resource that researchers in the state of North Carolina can use to answer other serious questions.”

“This grant further establishes NC State as the national leader in research into how environmental contaminants affect our health,” said Christine McGahan, Dean of the College of Science. “This work will help shed light on some of the causes of a disease that affects far too many people.”

NC State is the lead institution for the grant, in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and Emory University. Hoyo’s collaborators in North Carolina are Antonio Planchart, Jane Hoppin and David Skaar of the Department of Biological Sciences and Brian Reich and Jung-Ying Tzeng of the Department of Statistics.

The Hoyo project is just one example of the state of North Carolina’s large-scale research efforts into environmental contaminants. His work is part of the university’s Center for Human Health and the Environment, which conducts a range of research and awareness projects around the impacts of environmental factors on human health. And last year, a $ 7.4 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences established the Center for Environmental and Human Health Effects of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances at NC State to study PFAS and their effects.

Hoyo said these research programs and the professors they attract, along with the cutting-edge equipment available at the university’s Center for Molecular Education, Technology and Research Innovation, helped make the grant possible.

“NC State is doing important and innovative work in the area of ​​environmental contaminant research, and we are excited to expand these efforts,” she said.

This article originally appeared in College of Sciences News.


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