June 28, 2016
A University of Illinois at Chicago team led by Dr. Xiaofeng “Charles” Zhou, Associate Professor, Periodontics, UIC College of Dentistry, has earned a Lilly USA Research Award in Cancer Prevention and Early Detection. Dr. Zhou applied for the $80,000 grant, which runs through January 2017.
“The aim of this award is to identify microRNA biomarkers that can detect oral cancer at an early stage,” Dr. Zhou said. “So far we identified a number of differentially expressed microRNAs in oral cancer, and several of them have been shown to have diagnostic values to detecting oral/tongue cancer.”
Since 2003, deaths associated with oral cancer have increased by about nine percent, “primarily because oral cancer is routinely discovered at late stages,” Dr. Zhou said. “Oral cancers are preceded by pre-cancerous lesions, and approximately 18 percent become cancer. We need new technologies to predict which lesions will become cancerous.”
Dr. Zhou and his team are examining pre-cancerous tissue samples to identify microRNA biomarkers that are unique to pre-cancerous lesions. “These unique genomic features will provide us with molecular bases for early detection diagnostic tools for those aggressive lesions,” Dr. Zhou said.
The research is a collaborative effort with UIC personnel from other units. Collaborators with Dr. Zhou are Dr. Robert J. Cabay, Assistant Professor, Clinical Pathology; Dr. Yang Dai, Associate Professor, Bioengineering; and Dr. Larisa Nonn, Associate Professor, Pathology.
For more information on Lilly Awards, email lrap@Lilly.com.