UH Researching New Prostate Cancer Treatments with $5.2 Million Award

Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson Leads Team Exploring Alternate Therapies.

by Lisa K. Merkl (’92, M.A. ’97)

Thanks to $5.2 million in grants awarded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson and his colleagues are beginning work to develop new methods for treating the most severe form of prostate cancer.

A renowned hormone researcher, Gustafsson will oversee the multi-investigator award, which will be an interdisciplinary collaboration with researchers from UH’s Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS), The Methodist Hospital Research Institute and The University of Texas at El Paso.

Jan-Ake GustafssonGustafsson, who discovered a previously unknown estrogen receptor during the mid-1990s, is internationally recognized as a leading authority on hormone receptors and will lead the group in the discovery of innovative approaches to slowing the growth of early-stage cancers and combating late-stage cancers. Joining Gustafsson in this effort is the CNRCS co-founder, UH biology and biochemistry professor Margaret Warner.

“More than 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually, affecting one in six men. In approximately one-third of diagnosed cases, the disease spreads and invades other tissues to become life- threatening,” Gustafsson said. “Through this grant, we will be able to open the door for new and better therapies. Our early efforts have yielded promising results, and we look forward to building on our previous successes.”

Prostate cancer grows and survives on male hormones called androgens, and current treatments target these naturally occurring hormones. This can result in negative and harmful side effects. In the most severe and recurrent forms, the cancer can become resistant to this therapy, at which point treatment options are extremely limited.

Armed with decades of experience in hormone research, Gustafsson and Warner will test plant-derived and synthetic chemicals resembling hormones to prevent and combat prostate cancer. The team also plans to develop drugs that target new areas of the androgen signaling system and work differently from existing therapies.

“This important award is an indication of UH’s continuing commitment to research excellence and reflects the emphasis we place on finding real solutions to health-related problems,” said UH President Renu Khator.

Humans in Space Symposium Soars as UH, NASA Co-Host International Event

Conference Focuses on Commercial Future of Space Flight.

by Marisa Ramirez (’00)

More than 500 space industry professionals from around the world gathered in Houston for the 18th International Academy of Astronautics Humans in Space Symposium, hosted by the University of Houston and NASA. The weeklong symposium featured presentations and events that considered “Integration and Cooperation in the Next Golden Age of Human Space Flight.”

UH and NASA are partners in educating the next generation of space industry professionals and collaborate on various research projects that have applications to life in space.

“We are moving into a time where commercial space flight will take over and it won’t be government oriented,” said Professor William Paloski of the department of health and human performance and director of the Center for Neuromotor and Biomechanics Research. “Professionals will come from the rank and file — from universities — to run these programs.”

The symposium participants honored the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight into space, the first human to glimpse beyond the boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, astronaut Robert Crippen, pilot of the first space shuttle flight, was on hand to commemorate the anniversary of his history-making flight.

A highlight of the symposium was an art project that asked young people from around the world to express in painting, song, film or words the importance of space exploration and education. More than 500 submissions were received, many of which were compiled into an exhibit. Opening ceremonies, coordinated by Tina Neuhaus of the UH School of Theatre & Dance, featured many of the art images and one of the original scores.

Tyson Rockwell

A Work in Progress

Third Ward and one of its cornerstones, James D. Ryan Middle School.

by Mike Emery

It wasn’t a science project, but University of Houston students were tasked with creating an exhibition that would take people back in time. UH art and architecture students combined their creative talents to celebrate the historic Third Ward and one of its cornerstones James D. Ryan Middle School. They created “WorkingShop,” a multimedia exhibition that recreated aspects of yesteryear’s Third Ward while celebrating the school’s rich history.

The Ryan ProjectThis public school has served Third Ward residents since 1926. Originally, its campus was the site for Jack Yates Colored Senior High School, the city’s second school for African Americans. In 1958, the campus became home for Ryan Colored Junior High School — renamed Ryan Middle School following desegregation.

“It’s called ‘WorkingShop’ because Ryan Middle School and the Third Ward are still a work in progress,” said architecture student Nick Ballard. “It takes a community to look at Third Ward’s past and present in order to take this neighborhood into the future.”

The exhibition was housed in a site that once served as Ryan’s woodwork/vocational shop. UH students designed and constructed its components. Included in the exhibition were:

  • Timeline wall detailing major Third Ward events • Wall with images and audio detailing key homes, businesses and residents in the community
  • Re-creations of two Third Ward barbershops: Grovey’s and Sir John’s Hair Palace
  • Display focused on Heman Sweatt, plaintiff in historic civil rights case Sweatt v. Painter

Faculty oversight was provided by research professor Carroll Parrott Blue, architecture professor Patrick Peters and art professor Cheryl Beckett.

For students, “WorkingShop” offered a history lesson, but it also provided an opportunity to apply their energies toward a project that would impact the community.

“We actually designed something and saw it come together,” said Alex Lara, architecture student. “Most of the time, we design projects that are never built. It was a nice feeling to actually create something that was part of the community and impact lives.”

Smile! UH Offers Dental Services

UH students now have something else to smile about. In May,the university began offering dentistry services on campus at the UH Health Center. It is the only facility currently offering this at a Texas university not affiliated with a medical or dental school.

“We’ve been researching ways to deliver dental services to our students for a long time,” said UH Health Center Director Floyd Robinson. “Only recently has technology allowed us to bring a permanent clinic on campus.”

Services include preventive care and cleanings, fillings and limited major dental procedures. Dental care is available two days a week through a partnership with Cornerstone Onsite Dentistry, a Houston-based practice that staffs the UH clinic with dental professionals. Cost includes a $20 co-pay. Other charges will be based on services provided. Dental insurance is accepted.

The goal is to develop into a full-time facility that also is available to faculty and staff. “Our student population is the priority,” said Robinson, “but we believe we have the demand to expand our services to the entire campus community as early as this fall.” --Shawn Lindsey

Shining Success

UH Provides Emergency Solar Generator Stations to City.

Solar Generator stationCity of Houston officials are tapping into the talents of UH’s Green Building Components (UHGBC) for disaster relief solutions. UHGBC will provide city parks, schools, fire stations and other locations with 17 Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone (SPACE). SPACE units are recycled shipping containers equipped with solar generators. They can withstand hurricane-force winds and can be quickly deployed using helicopters or flatbed trailers.

“The top priority will be to power critical devices,” said Joe Meppelink, UHGBC director and architecture professor. “Following Hurricane Ike, medicines required refrigeration and crucial medical devices could not be recharged. SPACE units will be used to meet these needs.”

Each SPACE unit contains 20 solar panels that generate 3.5 kilowatts — enough power to run an air conditioner, three small refrigerators, a few computers, communication devices and lighting.

FCC OKs All-Classical Station

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given the green light to UH’s plans to operate a second radio station.

Barring last-minute technical difficulties, KUHA (91.7 FM) may already be on the air when you read this, providing Houston with its only full-time classical music station. It joins KUHF (88.7 FM), an NPR affiliate with a full slate of news and information.

UH acquired the 91.7 FM license from Rice University, which used it for KTRU. KTRU continues its programming on KPFT (90.1 FM HD-2) and online at ktru.org. The contractual close of the $9.5 million purchase was pending at press time, but no complications were expected. It is being financed completely by underwriting and private gifts to KUHF.

“This keeps UH at the forefront of providing strong cultural, educational and artistic opportunities that benefit our campus and our community,” said UH President Renu Khator.