UAMS Researcher Receives $913,000 Grant From American Cancer Society to Study HPV Virus

By todd

LITTLE ROCK — A researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received a grant of $913,000 from the American Cancer Society to study how the immune system of some women spontaneously clears the body of human papilloma virus (HPV).


Mayumi Nakagawa, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAMS Departments of Dermatology and Pathology, will follow approximately 100 women throughout the four-year study. The women are part of a larger multi-year study of the natural history of HPV infection being conducted by the University of California at San Francisco.


Persistent HPV virus can lead to cervical cancer, and is spread through sexual contact. In up to 90 percent of women, the virus clears from the body naturally in one to two years.


“By studying the same group of women over an extended period of time, we hope to gain an understanding of why the HPV virus clears on its own in the majority of women but persists in others,” Nakagawa said, adding that the goal of her research is to develop new immune therapy treatments for women with cervical cancer.


“A woman’s immune response against HPV seems to have an important role in controlling the infection,” Nakagawa said. “Women with immune deficiencies, such as HIV infection, have a much higher incidence of precancerous conditions and cervical cancer.” About 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer are reported in the United States each year, resulting in about 4,900 deaths annually.


An additional American Cancer Society grant of $12,000 was presented to Deborah Dean, licensed clinical oncology social worker, with the Arkansas Cancer Research Center (ACRC) at UAMS. Dean is primary investigator for the grant, which will fund the Clinical Oncology Social Work Internship Program.


Laura Koch, a second-year, master’s-level intern at the ACRC, has been selected to participate in the program for 2006-2007. Through the social work internship program, Koch will receive specialized training in the treatment, counseling and education of cancer patients and their families.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with more than 9,400 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.5 billion a year. For more information, visit