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K-State researcher receives $1M+ for cancer research

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023



MANHATTAN — A Kansas State University researcher has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore how healthy cells transform into cancer cells.

Katsura Asano, professor in the Division of Biology, leads a team of researchers studying how cells determine which proteins to make. They recently discovered that cells can produce many more versions of the same protein than previously thought, and some versions of these proteins can make a normal cell shift into a cancer cell.

The National Institutes of Health have awarded Asano and his team a four-year, nearly $1.2 million Research Project Grant to understand this shift.

Asano found that the transformation begins when there is too much of the protein known as 5MP1.

"We knew for some time that 5MP1 was more abundant in cancer cells, but nobody knew if it made cancer worse," Asano said. "The breakthrough came when we found that too much 5MP1 caused cells to start making a cancer-promoting version of a gene called MYC, and it resulted in more advanced colorectal cancers. With the funding from the National Institutes of Health, we will be able to understand if 5MP1 promotes other cancers and if blocking 5MP1 could help treat cancer."

Asano is a member of the Johnson Cancer Research Center at K-State, a center of excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences that supports and advances cancer research and education with competitive award programs.

"For years, I worked with multiple K-State undergraduate students to make the findings that allowed us to get this grant," Asano said. "Without the help from those students, our discoveries would not have been possible. I am thankful for the scholarships from the Johnson Cancer Research Center that provided students the financial freedom to perform research rather than work other jobs to make ends meet."

Media contact

Division of Communications and Marketing


Division of Biology

Johnson Cancer Research Center


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Katsura Asano

Katsura Asano, K-State professor of biology, has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to learn more about how and why healthy cells shift into cancer cells.

Written by

Nicholas Wallace