April 22, 2005

Lung cancer research lands innovator award

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Pran Datta, Ph.D.

Lung cancer research lands innovator award

Pran Datta, Ph.D., assistant professor of Cancer Biology and Surgery, has received the Clinical Innovator Award from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI). The award recognizes and supports Datta's research that may impact the development of strategies to treat human lung cancers.

FAMRI sponsors scientific medical research into the early detection, treatment, prevention and cure of diseases and medical conditions caused from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. The non-profit organization has its roots in a class action lawsuit against the tobacco industry filed by U.S. flight attendants seeking damages for the disease and deaths caused by their exposure to second hand tobacco smoke in airline cabins. It resulted in a settlement which provided substantial benefits to class members, as well as an endowment of $300 million to support the foundation.

“I am very honored to be recognized by this prestigious organization along with a dozen other young scientists in the U.S.,” Datta said. “It is a very competitive source of funding and usually funds a few, novel medical and clinical scientific research studies. As lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, is responsible for more than 80 percent of lung cancer cases, our study matches with the mission of FAMRI.”

The Clinical Innovator Award was established to stimulate research into new technologies to detect tobacco-caused illnesses and novel therapies to treat these diseases. It provides the researcher with $100,000 per year for two years, with the possibility for renewal for a third year.

Datta was recognized for his research focusing on MS-275, an anticancer drug developed by Berlipharm Inc. and Schering AG group for chemotherapeutic intervention of lung cancer. Clinical trials of several HDAC inhibitors, including MS-275, show that these inhibitors are well tolerated and show clinical potential for the treatment of leukemias and solid tumors. The tumor suppressor functions of TGF-ß, which are produced in the body, are lost in lung tumors due to the lack of expression of type II receptor. The findings from Datta's laboratory suggest that restoration of TGF-ß signaling by MS-275 may be a potential alternative for therapeutic intervention of lung cancers, preferably for patients with loss of type II receptor expression.

“Our goal is to use this fund to bring MS-275 into a phase II clinical trial in collaboration with the SPORE grant in lung cancer,” Datta said. “This research originated in the lab, but is now being brought to the bedside and is showing a true clinical application.”

Datta received a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Bose Institute in Calcutta, and switched his field of research to Molecular Cancer Biology. After finishing a postdoctoral fellowship with Harold Moses, M.D., Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Molecular Oncology and Director Emeritus, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Datta joined the faculty as assistant professor of Surgical Oncology in 2000, and in 2002 became assistant professor of Cancer Biology. He has authored more than 25 papers and has reviewed articles for multiple journals.

Datta will present his study at the FAMRI Fourth Scientific Symposium, May 13, at Miami Beach Resort, Florida. Sunil Halder, Ph.D., a research faculty member, and Govind Anumanthan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Datta's laboratory, were instrumental in carrying out this project. The research was supported by a Career Development Award from Lung SPORE at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.