July 25, 2013

Award bolsters study of bladder cancer chemo resistance

David DeGraff, Ph.D., has received the 2013 BCAN Young Investigator Award for Bladder Cancer Research.

David DeGraff, Ph.D., has received the 2013 BCAN Young Investigator Award for Bladder Cancer Research.

David DeGraff, Ph.D.

The two-year $100,000 grant from BCAN (the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network) will support DeGraff’s research to investigate the molecular mechanisms that make some forms of bladder cancer resistant to chemotherapy.

DeGraff is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Robert Matusik, Ph.D., director of Research in Urologic Surgery and William L. Bray Professor of Urology.

“I am so grateful to receive this grant in support of research which may lead to knowledge that is useful in the clinical setting,” said DeGraff. “The award is the result of many collaborations both inside and outside of my department at Vanderbilt.”

DeGraff cited Peter Clark, M.D., associate professor of Urologic Surgery, for enhancing his knowledge about bladder cancer, and Justin Cates, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, who has assembled a tissue resource with more than 600 patient tumor samples used in the study.

The project focuses on chemotherapy-resistant urothelial cell carcinoma (UCC) of the bladder. UCC with squamous characteristics is relatively common but there have been few advances in the design of treatment strategies for this tumor type. DeGraff and colleagues have identified a transcription factor (protein) AP2 gamma that appears to work with the p300 protein to make these tumors resistant to chemotherapy treatment.

The grant will support further research to determine the impact of the two proteins on squamous cell differentiation and if AP2 gamma and/or p300 promote chemo-resistance.

DeGraff received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in Newark. He has published more than 20 papers and book chapters and has received several scholarships and grant awards. He joined the Vanderbilt Department of Urologic Surgery as a postdoctoral fellow in 2008.

The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network was founded in 2005 by Diane Zipursky Quale and her late husband, John Quale, a bladder cancer patient who lost his battle to the disease in June 2008. BCAN is a national organization devoted to advancing bladder cancer research and supporting patients and families impacted by the disease.