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Source: Rob Denell, 785-532-6705, rdenell@k-state.edu
Note to editor: World Cancer Day is Feb. 4.
Websites: http://www.k-state.edu/media/mediaguide/bios/denellbio.html
and http://cancer.k-state.edu
Photos available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-2535.
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-2535, bbohn@k-state.edu

Monday, Jan. 31, 2011

CANCER RESEARCH CENTER FIGHTS DISEASE FROM THE LABORATORY

MANHATTAN -- Cancer, according to statistics from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, has become the leading cause of death in Kansas, surpassing heart disease.

But efforts by Kansas State University are helping to tackle the disease in several ways.

The Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research at K-State supports research, education and outreach, all vital in the fight against cancer, said Rob Denell, university distinguished professor of biology and center director.

"Our strength is basic research, which provides the foundation for more focused investigations into new approaches to preventative medicine, diagnosis and treatment," Denell said. "You have to have basic research before you can have treatments and cures."

To underscore the importance of basic research, Denell says to look no further than recent winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology. Half the recipients in the last 10 years were scientists using basic research components to make important advances.

"They were given the Nobel Prize because of the impact of their studies on our understanding of normal human development and disease, most notably cancer," Denell said.

The K-State cancer research center now has 70 faculty researchers representing five colleges and 12 departments. The number of researchers has climbed by 40 in just eight years.

"Their research runs a wide spectrum, enhancing our understanding of molecules, cells, organisms and other basic components of life. This provides a huge informational database for advancing cancer research and more," Denell said.

The research also provides an economic boost to the state.

Since opening in 1980 the center has provided nearly $1.3 million in Innovative Research Awards, $840,000 in technical and mentoring support, and $152,000 for a cancer research assistant professorship, all made possible through private donations.

"Not only does this support help K-State recruit excellent, up-and-coming researchers, it is leveraged by our faculty, who then win large grants. We help them become more competitive, and they bring in more than $40 million a year in extramural funding," Denell said. "That translates to a regional economic impact of $60 million a year, a conservative estimate of what is contributed to the economy of Manhattan, the state and the region."

The center enhances K-State student learning and recruitment as well.

"The center provides undergraduates with opportunities to conduct real laboratory research," Denell said. "Our cancer research awards have supported the work of more than 800 undergraduates and their faculty mentors to date.

"These undergraduate research awards can be an impetus for keeping talented young people in the state, with some attending medical school or graduate school in Kansas. We know that many of these students go on to become health care professionals, including doctors and researchers," he said.

The center also provides scholarships for Kansas high school students interested in studying health-related fields at K-State.

Key collaborations contribute to the center's efforts to fight cancer and help Kansas. Two formal agreements with the University of Kansas benefit the state. The first agreement formally supports the KU Cancer Center's bid to earn National Cancer Institute status. The second agreement encourages research interactions between K-State and KU.

"This will help advance our basic cancer research to clinical trials through KU," Denell said.

Another collaboration is with the Midwest Cancer Alliance, which makes clinical trials available to a broader array of Kansans. The K-State cancer research center and the renowned Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City are the sole research-only institutes in the alliance, which is composed mostly of major hospitals across Kansas.

More information about the center, including how to contribute to its fight against cancer, is available at http://cancer.k-state.edu/.