02:14pm Saturday 18 January 2020

MSU researchers make important strides in battle against cancer

As MSU welcomes December commencement speaker Nancy Brinker, a leader in the global breast cancer movement, the university research community remains focused on innovative work in the fight against cancer. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, speaks at 2 p.m. Dec. 12 and will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.


“For many of us in the MSU community, the fight against cancer has become a personal crusade as well as a scientific challenge,” said Ian Gray, vice president for research and graduate studies. “We are proud of the advances our researchers have made in understanding, controlling and preventing cancer in its many forms, both in humans and in animals.


“We are honored — and energized — to welcome Nancy Brinker as a reminder of what one person can achieve against this disease,” Gray said.


Following are several examples of the work done at MSU, which has more than $43 million in active funding in the battle against cancer:

  • In the late 1960s, chemistry professor Barnett Rosenberg and colleagues discovered cancer and leukemia can be slowed and blocked by certain platinum compounds. From this research came cisplatin, one of the most successful cancer treatments. 
  • A team from MSU’s Breslin Cancer Center is developing a clinic for the survivors of breast cancer, hoping to reduce mortality and improve quality of life. A $39,591 grant from the Mid-Michigan Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure will support a new multidisciplinary program called “Changing Tomorrow’s Breast Cancer Survivors.” The multidisciplinary MSU team will consist of a medical oncologist, oncology social worker and nurse educator. 
  • Through MSU’s Department of Medicine, there are five oncology clinics that collaborate on clinical trials. One of the most promising clinical trials uses chemotherapy drugs linked to the vitamin folate that hone in on cancer cells more effectively and damage fewer healthy cells. 
  • Justin McCormick and Veronica Maher — University Distinguished Professors and associate deans and co-directors of the Carcinogenesis Laboratory at the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine — run a laboratory specializing in research on the origin of human cancer. While strong evidence suggests environmental agents are responsible for the majority of human cancer, the biochemical mechanisms by which normal cells are transformed into tumor-producing cells are not yet understood. The lab’s goal is to gain insight into these processes so that strategies can be developed to interrupt or thwart this malignant transformation. 
  • Barbara Given, the associate dean for research in the MSU College of Nursing, has been involved in cancer research for more than 30 years. Her latest work is to put her symptom management toolkit online to help cancer patients with intervention strategies. The study integrates a Web-based program that links cancer patients’ symptoms and their reports of severity with intervention strategies directed toward patients. 
  • Sandra Haslam of MSU’s Breast Cancer and Environment Research Center and Richard Schwartz of the MSU College of Natural Science have found exposure to the hormone progesterone activates genes that trigger inflammation in the mammary gland. This progesterone-induced inflammation may be a key factor in increasing the risk of breast cancer.
  • Gwen Wyatt from the College of Nursing and colleagues are embarking on a more detailed investigation into the value of reflexology — a specialized foot therapy that applies firm pressure to certain parts of the sole of the foot — in treating late-stage breast cancer patients. Using a National Institutes of Health grant of more than $3 million, they will more closely examine the benefits of reflexology in a controlled study. 
  • The Center for Comparative Oncology in MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is shedding new light on cancer in animals, and this research ends up finding new answers for people with cancer as well. Led by center Director Barbara Kitchell, current studies are investigating the role of genetics in histiocytic sarcoma, lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, mammary cancer and mast cell tumors. 




Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

Contact: Jason Cody, University Relations, Office: (517) 432-0924, Cell: (734) 755-0210, Jason.Cody@ur.msu.edu

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