SUNY Poly Professors Awarded $3.5M by National Institutes of
Health for Cutting-Edge Cancer-Related Research
Albany, NY – SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) has been selected to receive more than $3.5 million in federal funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for advanced nanobioscience-related research that could help to identify how specific RNA mechanisms and human enzymes interact with environmental toxicants, and then explore ways to use them to deduce early signs of cancer development and as possible targets for treatment. SUNY Poly Associate Professor of Nanobioscience Dr. Thomas Begley will receive nearly $1.7M over five years for the RNA signaling-focused research, and SUNY Poly Professor of Nanobioscience Dr. Xinxin Ding’s research will receive more than $1.8M over the same time period, focusing on respiratory tract enzymes that can play a role in lung cancer. The funding for this next-generation research will also support leading-edge educational opportunities for nanobioscience students at SUNY Poly.
“On behalf of SUNY Poly, I am thrilled to congratulate Professors Thomas Begley and Xinxin Ding for receiving these prestigious federal grants, and I eagerly await the results of their research that could pave the way for better disease diagnosis and treatment,” said SUNY Poly Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Robert Geer. “The selection of SUNY Poly research for federal funding from the NIH highlights SUNY Poly’s top tier faculty and capabilities which enable an innovative hands-on, health-focused education.”
“This is yet another testament to the high level of critical research that is conducted by SUNY Poly faculty, and I congratulate Drs. Begley and Ding on their well deserved recognition from the National Institutes of Health,” said SUNY Poly Provost Dr. William Durgin. “We are thrilled that these awards will offer research opportunities for SUNY Poly students, providing them first-hand experience working on some of the most important and challenging health-related problems of our time.”
“I congratulate both Dr. Begley and Dr. Ding for their nanobioscience-based studies that exemplify how the research conducted at SUNY Poly can help us to better understand how humans interact with their environment and respond to toxins, potentially leading to improved ways to tackle diseases such as cancer,” said SUNY Poly Dean of the College of Nanoscale Sciences Dr. Alain Diebold. “These NIH grants will also allow our students to work at the cutting edge intersection of nanotechnology and bioscience to shed light on the mechanisms that drive cancer growth and the ways in which we can stop them.”
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences selected Dr. Begley, who also holds the position of SUNY Poly Associate Vice President and Director of the Systems Toxicology Laboratory, for the funding that will support research detailing how certain parts of cells work. The goal is to figure out how environmental stress can impact cells and promote disease, with Dr. Begley’s research team investigating new signaling pathways that promote changes to RNA that, in turn, impact a cell’s “decision” to live or die when it contacts environmental toxins. This research could eventually lead to new targets for cancer therapeutics, and it could pinpoint ways in which RNA modification systems can be used to better assess cancer risk, for example.
Dr. Begley’s research grant will leverage SUNY Poly’s state-of-the-art resources related to cell imaging, molecular analysis, and cell culture, and it will enable collaboration between scientists at SUNY Poly, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Lovelace Respiratory Institute. The NIH grant will be used to support graduate and post doctoral students at SUNY Poly as the research team develops new computational approaches to study gene expression, further bolstering SUNY Poly’s educational offerings which focus on providing relevant, real-world research experience.
“I am grateful that the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recognizes the importance of SUNY Poly’s RNA signaling pathways research, which can continue to lay the foundation for addressing health concerns which afflict so many people around the world,” said Dr. Begley. “This grant will support SUNY Poly faculty, staff, and students, and the institution’s 21st century laboratories that underpin our cutting-edge research. We are proud that our unique approach to understanding how environmental stresses can impact cell health and how we may be able to use the cell’s own communication system for more efficient diagnosis and treatment of disease, has opened the doors to an exciting frontier for us to explore.”
The National Cancer Institute awarded Dr. Ding funds to help determine the role of respiratory tract enzymes in the transformation of environmental chemicals to become ultimate toxicants, with a specific focus on the human enzyme CYP2A13, which is selectively expressed in the airways. Dr. Ding, who also holds the positions of Laboratory of Molecular Toxicology Director and Center for Preclinical Nano-Drug Discovery and Development Director at SUNY Poly, will look to directly determine the enzyme’s role in the initiation of inflammation and emergence of tumors in environmental tobacco smoke-impacted lungs. As a result, this research could establish the CYP2A13 enzyme as a valuable genetic marker for lung cancer risk assessment and as a target for chemoprevention of lung diseases.
The respiratory tract enzyme research will support SUNY Poly student tuition and stipends, providing an opportunity for undergraduate students and summer interns to gain research experience, in addition to thesis research opportunities for graduate students. The project leverages the institution’s world-class facilities, including the Laboratory of Molecular Toxicology, utilizing advanced mass spectrometry for biomarker analysis, and it will bolster partnerships with researchers from the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center and the University of California, Davis.
“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. and tobacco smoke exposure plays a known, significant role, but still today, relatively little is known about the mechanisms that induce tumor-causing changes in the respiratory system, so we are thankful that the National Cancer Institute awarded our SUNY Poly research team funding which will support efforts that can further illuminate how this complex process works,” said Dr. Ding. “Utilizing SUNY Poly’s resources and expertise, we aim to better understand how tobacco smoke causes changes such as lung inflammation, which can often precede the start of cancer. This research will also pave the way for our efforts to develop more effective cancer prevention methods, including nano-drugs.”
SUNY Polytechnic Institute. SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) is New York’s globally recognized, high-tech educational ecosystem, formed from the merger of the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and SUNY Institute of Technology. SUNY Poly offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering, as well as cutting-edge nanobioscience and nanoeconomics programs at its Albany location and undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its Utica/Rome location. Thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities complement the campus experience. As the world’s most advanced, university-driven research enterprise, SUNY Poly boasts more than $43 billion in high-tech investments and over 300 corporate partners. For information visit www.sunycnse.com and www.sunypoly.edu.