CU Boulder researchers land nearly $500,000 in American Cancer Society grants

BOULDER — Three researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have received multiyear grants from the American Cancer Society.

Joanna Arch received a two-year grant of $144,000; and Glen Bjerke and Josh Stern each received three-years grants of $163,500 to aid in their cancer-related research projects.

Arch is piloting a program to support patients with advanced cancer by offering behavioral intervention, helping them manage anxiety, depression, physical pain and uncertainty. The research takes place in the community and offers patients an online and in-person experience. Arch’s findings and patient feedback will help refine the program for further research in order to address the full range of the patient’s psychosocial needs.

Bjerke is studying a family of microRNAs, miR-200, and its importance in nonmelanoma skin cancer. It has been found that lowering the level of miR-200 may increase one of the major pathways where cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. With the low rate of spreading in nonmelanoma skin cancer, it presents an opportunity to see if the deletion of the miR-200 family will result in an increase in spreading. By having a better understanding of this process, it could lead to ways to stop the progression of cancer.

Stern is studying a mutation in a gene called telomeres reverse transcriptase, or TERT. The majority of cancers rely on this gene, which protects the cancer cells from one of the primary causes of aging. The challenge with targeting the gene for anti-cancer therapeutics is that TERT is also found in normal stem cells. Scientists later discovered that a certain mutation in TERT was found in some cancers, but not in the stem cells. Stern is studying the TERT mutations found in certain cancers and uncovering what is causing the mutations in the hope of finding future therapeutic approaches.

The American Cancer Society is the largest nonprofit funding source of cancer research in the United States.