UAMS Scientists Awarded Grants for Cancer Research

By Linda Haymes

Three Seeds of Science small grant awards of $50,000 each were presented March 5 to UAMS cancer researchers at “The Doctor is in” event hosted by the Envoys volunteer advocacy group. The event included a research poster showcase highlighting ongoing cancer-related projects.

Funding for one of the awards was made possible by proceeds from the 18th annual Village Walk for Cancer Research, held Sept. 28, 2019 in Hot Springs Village. Organized by volunteers, the walk unites the community located one hour southwest of Little Rock, in support of cancer research.

The 2020 walk is scheduled for Sept. 26 at Balboa Pavilion in Hot Springs Village and will include the option to kayak in Lake Balboa.

HSV Walk grant recipient

Kimberly Stephens, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., (second from right) received a grant funded by proceeds from the Hot Springs Village Walk for Cancer Research. Representatives from the walk joined Stephens and Cancer Institute Director Michael Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., (far right) at the awards reception. They are (from left) Corina Hickman, Gloria Lyda, Donna Aylward and Christy Etheridge.

“We’re a grassroots group that is really passionate about finding a cure for cancer. Over the last 19 years, we’ve raised about $500,000 for research programs at the UAMS Cancer Institute. Knowing the money we raise is used to advance cancer research right here in Arkansas is very satisfying for those of us who organize the walk and participate in it,” said Melanie Pederson, chairman of the walk.

The other two awards were provided by the Envoys, an advocacy group of the UAMS Cancer Institute.

“These grants are extremely important as they support pilot cancer research projects and young investigators as they pursue new ideas,” said Jenny Long, president of the Envoys.

Award recipients were:

  • Carolina Schinke, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, and Michael Bauer, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics, both in the UAMS College of Medicine

Schinke and Bauer are working to understand the importance of myeloma’s surrounding bone marrow microenvironment in the development of the disease and its role in progression and relapse. They hope the results of their study will lead to new treatments aimed at modifying changes in that microenvironment that contribute to the development of myeloma and its resistance to treatment. This project was supported by a grant from the Envoys.

Jenny Long

Envoys President Jenny Long speaks to the crowd.

  • Kimberly E. Stephens, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics

Stephens hopes to identify the genomic regions associated with the initiation and progression of chemotherapy-induced nerve damage, which is often resistant to existing treatments and associated with adverse health outcomes in cancer survivors. While substantial advances have been made, current understanding does not explain what causes the development of nerve damage during chemotherapy.  This grant was provided by the Village Walk for Cancer Research.

  • Analiz Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery

The aggressive brain tumor glioblastoma has a grim prognosis with a median survival of 15 months and limited treatment options. In her study, Rodriguez hopes to establish a new way to examine molecular characteristics of clinical specimens and rapidly screen different treatment regimens, which could one day help guide clinical management of these deadly tumors. Rodriguez’s grant was supported by the Envoys.

The Seeds of Science program has provided funds to jumpstart small cancer research projects at the Cancer Institute since 2009. The goal of the program is to provide “seed” funding that will allow researchers to make discoveries that can be used to apply for larger federal grant awards.