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MUSC center to provide targeted stem cell therapy for patient survival

While survival rates have improved through the years with standard cancer therapies that utilize surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to attack cancer tumors, cancer remains one of the largest threats to public health.
A recently approved Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) program will seek to improve cancer outcomes by developing new therapeutic options for killing cancer stem cells and stem cell replacement.
The CoEE in Cancer Stem Cell Biology and Therapy was approved by the Commission on Higher Education for $5 million in state funding through the South Carolina Research Centers of Economic Excellence Act, CoEE officials announced July 8.
Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC), along with philanthropic funding from MUSC, will provide the $5 million dollar-for-dollar match required by the state.
HCC and four other cancer-related centers will lead the new center and will work in close collaboration with Clemson and other HSSC member institutions.
The focus of the center  is twofold: first, identify ways to use the body’s stem cells found in bone marrow or adult organs as treatment targets for cancer therapy; second, develop and market the bioengineering aspects of stem cell collection and utilization for more functional and adaptable clinical applications.
The center will have two endowed chairs, cancer cellular research and cancer bioengineering research, which will reside at MUSC. Recruiting for nationally respected researchers is underway. MUSC’s certified Bone Marrow Transplant program and National Institutes of Health-funded General Clinical Research Center will further enhance research efforts. The center will interface with other centers that address cancer and regenerative medicine, leveraging the intellectual talent at MUSC and Clemson.
Andrew Kraft, M.D., HCC director, is the center’s principal contact. He said the center in Cancer Stem Cell Biology and Therapy will position South Carolina as a leader in this new transdisciplinary field, which merges bioengineering and biomedicine.
“This CoEE will provide the resources to recruit outstanding individuals to explore the function and inhibition of cancer stem cells, and in so doing, may lead to exciting new stem cell-based cancer therapies that will improve survival rates and create new economic opportunities for South Carolina,” said Kraft.
“This effort would not be possible without close collaboration between MUSC and Clemson, which will be spearheaded by Vincent S. Gallicchio, Ph.D.; and the investments made by the South Carolina, Health Sciences South Carolina and its members,” Kraft added.
In keeping with the HSSC mission to advance the state’s economy through research, the center in Cancer Stem Cell Biology and Therapy will have an immediate economic impact from the recruitment and hiring of the endowed chairs and their research staffs.
Other opportunities include private spin-off companies and patents generated by discoveries related to tissue engineering, anti-cancer therapies, and drug screening and discovery that are then licensed by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. The center also will pursue additional funding from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.
Citing the importance of cancer stem cell research and the potential for improving both public health and the state’s knowledge economy, HSSC president and CEO Jay Moskowitz, Ph.D., praised the Commission on Higher Education and the CoEE Review Board for approving the CoEE program in Cancer Stem Cell Biology and Therapy.
“This is validation of the CoEE program, which seeks to transform our state’s future through research,” Moskowitz said. “The stem cell research proposed by Drs. Kraft and Gallicchio has implications for the potential development of novel, more effective therapies that can be patented, and in the process, dramatically improve cancer survival rates.”  

Friday, Aug. 8, 2008
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