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Investigators Awarded Breast Cancer Seed Grants

Scientists studying breast cancer tumor formation, treatment and screening have been awarded Research Seed Grants by the Stephenson Cancer Center. The competitive grants, which total $150,000, were funded by a private gift from MidFirst Bank from funds generated from the bank's breast cancer awareness "Pink VISA® Debit Card."

"We are very grateful to MidFirst Bank for its efforts to fight a cancer that will affect one out of every eight Oklahoma women. The dollars raised from MidFirst Bank's "Pink VISA® Debit Card" are playing an important role in supporting world-class breast cancer research right here in Oklahoma," said Robert Mannel, MD, director of the Stephenson Cancer Center.

Of the three seed grants, two were awarded to researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and one was awarded to a researcher at Oklahoma State University.

The 2011 seed grant recipients are:

Robert Matts, PhD
Oklahoma State University

"Mechanism of Action of Second-Generation Hsp90 Inhibitors in Breast Cancer Cells"

Dr. Matts will investigate new strategies to inhibit Hsp90, a protein that is prominently involved in the formation of breast cancer cells. Determining such strategies can suggest promising avenues for the development of newer, more effective drugs.

Youngjae You, PhD
OU Health Sciences Center
"Synthesis and In Vitro Study of Longer-Wavelength Absorbing Photosensitizers
Targeting Cancer Cells for Photodynamic Therapy in Recurrent Breast Cancers"


Dr. You will develop new strategies for increasing the effectiveness of Photodynamic Therapy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure that uses a laser to activate a photosensitizing agent to kill cancer cells. This approach shows great potential as an alternative to standard chemotherapy and surgery because it has fewer side effects.

Eleni L. Tolma, MPH, PhD
OU Health Sciences Center
"Utilizing the Theory of Planned Behavior in the Promotion of Mammography Screening Among an American Indian Population"

Dr. Tolma will utilize the Theory of Planned Behavior, a predictive model used in the field of Public Health, to better understand the attitudes of American Indian women toward breast cancer screening. Working with representatives of the Potawatomi Nation, Dr. Tolma hopes to develop more effective strategies to raise awareness of and encourage American Indian women to get regular mammogram screenings.