News shorts: Researcher funded for study of why cancer cells persist
Researcher funded for study of why cancer cells persist
A U of A researcher is one of just two Alberta-based scientists to receive a grant from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute.
Thomas Simmen, in the Department of Cell Biology, will receive more than $400,000 over three years to study factors involved in the persistence of cancer cells that allow them to withstand stress, such as that caused by chemotherapy.
Simmen’s team has identified a structure in the cell that is crucial in sensing stress and will study why it is abnormal in a tumour cell and promotes its survival. In the past, the main question around cancer cells is why they divide and grow uncontrollably. It was just in the past 10 years that scientists started to look at why cancer cells fail to die.
This grant money comes from a specific division of the institute that supports basic research, which, Simmen says, is an example of the importance of funding basic science.
“The more mechanisms you know that are behind cancer increase [researchers’] chances of success,” said Simmen. “That’s why basic research is still very important; because of the thousands of changes that take place, we need to know as much as we can.”
It’s hoped that Simmen’s research will lead to drugs that better target the structure that senses stress in a cancer cell, or can assist in chemotherapy. Simmen, who looks specifically at melanoma, an often fatal type of skin cancer, is optimistic of a big discovery and is grateful that he received the funding.
“I [look forward] to studying what’s important,” said Simmen.
Former Panda wins world championship triathlon
Former University of Alberta Cross Country and Track star Paula Findlay won gold in her first World Championship Triathlon Series race on July 24 in London, England.
Running toward the finish line in a pack of four, Findlay was simply fighting to get on the podium. She surprised everyone, including herself, by crossing first.
“Running with a group of four is always hard, because there’s only three spots on the podium,” said the 21-year-old from Edmonton. “At that point in the race I was just hoping for a podium spot. Then I looked back and saw I had a little gap and just ran my heart out.”
Findlay competed for two seasons at the U of A, running with the Pandas in the cross-country and track varsity programs, while also swimming with on the varsity swim team.
In her career she collected a Canadian Interuniversity Sport silver medal in cross-country in 2007, as well as three medals in track and field distance running. She raced to a gold medal finish in the 2009 CIS 300-metre race, and also picked up silver medals in the 1,500 m in 2009 and in the 3,000 m in 2008.
Findlay, who won her first World Cup race in April, joined the leaders halfway through the cycle stage, then burst ahead from a leading pack of four runners with about 800 metres to go to win in one hour, 51 minutes 48 seconds on the Hyde Park course that will be used in the 2012 Olympics.
ALES students take top prize at soils competition
U of A students got down and dirty in the soil pits for the Canadian Soil Judging Competition and, at the end of the day, the group came out on top.
Kelly Kneteman and Cory Kartz, graduate students in the Department of Renewable Resources, placed first and second respectively in the Canadian Soil Judging Competition held at the end of June in Saskatoon, Sask.
Students were tasked with identifying the soils in four different pits on different parts of the landscape in a site. They could only spend a certain amount of time in each pit before they had to move on.
“We had to go in there and—based on what we saw in the different layers, the training that we had during our undergraduate and some practical experience—try to identify each specific layer,” said Kneteman.
Kartz said that this type of identification is even more challenging than what they would have to do in the field because they had to work without their regular tools.
“If you’re doing this type of thing practically, you take something into the pit with you—a classification guide or notes or something—but we had to do it all from memory. They wouldn’t let us take anything into the pit with us. So that was a little bit shocking, but it worked out well.”