CNRCS Researcher Awarded $1.56 Million Grant from NIH for Colon Cancer Study


UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS) Assistant Professor Cecilia Williams has been awarded a $1.56 million five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to investigate the mechanistic basis for novel colon cancer prevention and therapy.  This project will utilize the skills and resources at the Center to provide a detailed understanding of estrogen receptor beta’s (ERβ) role and potential in colon cancer prevention and treatment. 

Colorectal or colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. This cancer affects both men and women and is expected to cause approximately 50,830 deaths in 2013. A truly preventive or targeted therapy against colon cancer does not yet exist. However, estrogen has been shown to reduce incidence of this disease.  

A large body of work has suggested that signals conveyed by estrogen can prevent or delay colon cancer development, but little is understood of the underlying mechanisms. Williams’s lab offers unique models and data that can clarify how estrogen influences colon cancer development. Through this project, the lab will investigate the mechanistic basis for novel colon cancer prevention and therapy utilizing ERβ in order to validate biomarkers and develop future therapy and prevention strategies.

"Our preliminary studies have yielded positive results and we look forward to expanding upon our research, as a result of this NCI grant, in order to increase opportunities for improved colon cancer prevention and therapies," said Williams. 

This work also involves experts within related fields including Dr. Jonna Frasor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies estrogen and inflammation in the breast, colon cancer clinician Dr. Christopher Garrett at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, UH bioinformatician Dr. Preethi Gunaratne, and UH CNRCS Director Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson who discovered ERβ in the mid-1990s.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is one of 11 agencies that compose the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The NCI, established under the National Cancer Institute Act of 1937, is the Federal Government's principal agency for cancer research and training. 

Established in 2009, CNRCS is the focal point of the UH health initiative. Led by Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson, a world-renowned expert in the field of nuclear receptors, CNRCS researchers are involved in many aspects of nuclear receptor research, all focused on understanding the roles of these receptors in health and disease. CNRCS researchers are working toward the goal of finding new treatments for an array of significant diseases including cancer, diabetes and metabolic syndrome and degenerative neurologic diseases. Working from the Center's world-class labs, CNRCS researchers combine interdisciplinary research and dynamic collaboration with the Texas Medical Center and industry partners.