Cancer Experts and Survivors Collaborate To Provide New Thyroid Cancer Research Grants

August 13, 2008— The American Thyroid Association (ATA) and ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. are awarding two new research grants in 2008 and renewing two grants on thyroid cancer, one of the few cancers significantly increasing in the number of newly-diagnosed patients.

ThyCa’s grants are the first-ever thyroid cancer research grants to be funded by thyroid cancer patients, caregivers, and friends. The ATA and ThyCa have been working together to provide research funds to new investigators for thyroid cancer research projects since 2003.

“ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association is thrilled to raise much-needed funds for thyroid cancer research and is grateful for the opportunity to work with the ATA. We’re grateful to our thousands of donors and pleased to provide these funds to the best thyroid cancer research projects proposed by young investigators, because more research on thyroid cancer is urgently needed,” says ThyCa Executive Director Gary Bloom.

The grants are open to researchers worldwide. An independent expert ATA panel rigorously evaluates the grant proposals and selects the projects to be funded. The ATA panel is made up of thyroid cancer experts, thyroidologists, and thyroid surgeons. The ATA also supports the administrative costs of the grant review process. The ATA fosters excellence in research, patient care, and education of patients, the public, and the medical and scientific communities. Similarly, the ATA is dedicated to guiding public policy about the prevention and management of thyroid diseases.

“The ATA values its relationship with ThyCa furthering its mission to support research of thyroid cancer and thyroid disease. We are proud of the invaluable public service by ATA members to the research review committee,” said Richard T. Kloos, M.D., secretary/chief operating officer of the ATA.

The grants support new investigators for a research project in papillary thyroid cancer and one in medullary thyroid cancer. Research grants, up to $25,000 annually, are awarded for two-year terms, with renewals based on satisfactory progress report from funded investigators in the fourth quarter of the first year.

In 2008, thyroid cancer is expected to reach a record number of 37,340 newly diagnosed people in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Cancer Society.

The 2008 new ATA/ThyCa grant recipients are:

2008 ATA/ThyCa Grant Recipient – Papillary Thyroid Cancer
Mike S. Fenton, Ph.D

Assistant Researcher, Endocrinology, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)/Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Health Care System, Los Angeles, California.
Project: Regulation of Sodium/Iodide Symporter (NIS) Gene Expression in Thyroid Cancer

Dr. Fenton’s research will focus on determining promoter gene regulation of the sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) gene expression in papillary thyroid cancer. This is an important issue because some differentiated thyroid cancers lose their NIS gene expression and cannot take up radioactive iodine I131, resulting in a poor prognosis.

Dr. Fenton received his Ph.D. from UCLA, and during his graduate and post-doctoral research, he developed expertise in regulation of gene transcription and was first author of four papers published in prestigious journals. Bio

2008 ATA/ThyCa Grant Recipient – Medullary Thyroid Cancer
Libero Santarpia, M.D., Ph.D

Instructor, Endocrine Neoplasia and Hormonal Disorders, The University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Project: Identification of microRNA (miRNA) Target Genes in Human Medullary Thyroid Cancer: A Specific Role of miRNAs to Promote Invasion and Metastasis

Dr. Santarpia’s research will focus on identifying the target genes of six microRNAs (miRNA) in human medullary thyroid cancer, examining a specific role of miRNAs to promote invasion and metastasis. The six miRNAs are specifically associated with medullary thyroid cancer metastasis.

Dr. Santarpia earned M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Medina, in Italy, where he also completed a medical residency, followed by fellowships at the University of Naples, Italy, and the Hospital Trial Pujon in Barcelona, Spain. He has been at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center since 2006. He received The Endocrine Society Young Investigator Travel Award in 2007. Bio

The 2008 new ATA/ThyCa grant recipients renewals are:

2008 ATA/ThyCa Grant Recipient Renewals – Papillary Thyroid Cancer
Krystian Jazdzewski, M.D., Ph.D

Assistant Professor, Medical University of Gdansk, Poland Visiting Scientist, The Ohio State University
Project: The Role of miR146a in Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma

Krystian Jazdzewski, M.D., Ph.D., and his research team are searching for genetic factors which predispose those to papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). It is worthwhile because an inherited predisposition to differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) is one of the highest of all cancers—a three to eight times higher risk of DTC for first-degree relatives, than the general population. Bio

2008 ATA/ThyCa Grant Recipient Renewals – Medullary Thyroid Cancer
Mabel Ryder, M.D.

Assistant Attending Physician, Division of Endocrinology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York Project: The Role of Tumor-Associated Macrophages on Thyroid Cancer Progression

Thyroid cancers are richly infiltrated with immune cells, in particular, tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). Yet, their role on thyroid cancer progression has not been clearly investigated.

Mabel Ryder, M.D., and her research team have shown that the density of TAMs correlates with tumor grade and tumor progression in well-differentiated, poorly-differentiated and anaplastic human thyroid cancers, suggesting that TAMs may be involved in thyroid cancer progression. Dr. Ryder will examine the functional role of TAMs on thyroid cancer progression, on tumor angiogenesis and on tumor metastases. Bio

For more information, please contact the ATA at thyroid@thyroid.org.

ThyCa

ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, a national nonprofit organization begun in 1995 and advised by thyroid cancer specialists, educates and supports patients and families through free support services and education. Services include its award-winning educational web site, local and e-mail support groups, person-to-person support, free newsletters, free downloadable low-iodine cookbook and other publications, year-round awareness programs for early detection, Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month each September, educational conferences and workshops, and thyroid cancer research funds and grant funding. The 11th International Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Conference will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 17-19, 2008. Conference, workshop, and support service details are at www.thyca.org. To find out more about ThyCa’s Research Funds and Rally for Research, visit http://www.thyca.org/researchfund.htm.

ATA

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the lead organization in promoting thyroid health and understanding thyroid biology. The ATA values scientific inquiry, clinical excellence, public service, education, collaboration, and collegiality.

A non-profit medical society founded in 1923, the ATA fulfills its mission through supporting excellence and innovation in research, clinical care, education, and public health. ATA members are physicians and scientists who work to enhance the understanding of thyroid physiology and pathophysiology, improve the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid diseases, and promote the education of physicians, patients, and the public about thyroid disorders.

Thyroid diseases are among the most common disorders of the endocrine system, affecting almost 13 million Americans alone. The ATA has extensive online information for patients on thyroid disease (in English and Spanish) serving the clinician as a resource for patients and the public who look for reliable information on the internet. To further benefit patients, the ATA Alliance for Patient Education was formed in 2002 to offer an exchange of information between the ATA and patient education groups: ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc.; the Light of Life Foundation, and the National Graves’ Disease Foundation. A public forum is held each year in conjunction with the ATA annual meeting.

Thyroid Research grants total over $275,000 annually to young investigators. Publications sourced by this research and application procedures are available at www.thyroid.org. The 79th annual meeting of the ATA will be in Chicago from October 1-5, 2008 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. All registration and program information is available at www.thyroid.org. We welcome your participation.