What is Canalization?

The following was taken from WV Public Broadcasting
by Clark Davis

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Marshall University professor Vincent Sollars recently received a $432,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute for his unique cancer research. It involves something called canalization.

Click this picture to hear Clark Davis interview Dr. Vincent Sollars about his research.

Dr. Sollars is an associate professor in the Marshall University School of Medicine. He’s taking an unusual approach to find better treatments for cancer.

“In the end what we’re looking at is making life better for people that have this deadly disease, that’s the main reason I became a scientist,” Sollars said.

The idea of canalization is that as cells develop and mature they become different things.

“As they develop they start as very immature cells that look like each other, and then they mature,” Sollars said. “That process is structured and they’re pushed a long a certain direction like a canal pushes water.”

And he said when that canalization does not work appropriately that is when cancer cells develop. Sollars is examining why some of those cells do not follow the path and end up becoming cancerous. Sollars said that some of the cells will stop listening and cooperating with neighboring cells. That communication with the other cells is necessary for the complex mix that becomes the different cells in our body. When the cells do not listen, bad things happen.

“The loss of this canalization is a force that will allow those cells that are normal to become cancerous, if we understand how that occurs we can develop new chemotherapies,” Sollars said. “If it is truly a force that helps a cancer cell progress we can put breaks on that force.”

Sollars and a team of student researchers will the test the role of canalization in the maturing process of cells and cancer development in mice. They will target leukemia specifically with this grant, but the results can apply to all cancer types. Sollars said most often with cancer research, the examination is of the genes that mutate and become cancerous. His work differs because it looks at the process those individual cells are taking in becoming a normal part of the body or cancer down the road.

“What I’m doing is understanding not a particular gene, but a process,” Sollars said. “So how do cells bring about the changes in these genes, not the specific genes themselves, but the process and so this is a fundamental process is my theory that most cancers use to progress.”

Sollars says ultimately the hope is that if his hypothesis can be proved true, a certain type of chemotherapy could be used in conjunction with the already occurring treatment of leukemia. He says often times the initial treatment of leukemia will seem successful, putting the cancer into remission. But often he said cancer cells will be hiding and growing without the knowledge of the doctor until it’s too late.

Sollars hopes to hire 8 undergraduate and graduate students along with a full-time technician.

Researcher receives $432,000 grant to study progression of cancer, involve students

The following news story provides different information about Dr. Sollars’ research than the previous one posted on our News page.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Dr. Vincent E. Sollars, an associate professor of biochemistry and microbiology at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, has received a $432,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to research a cutting edge concept to fight cancer.

The Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) will fund a three-year project in “epigenetics,” a relatively new concept in cancer therapies that has shown great promise.

“The basic question we are trying to answer is ‘What are the processes that enable a normal cell to start misbehaving and become cancer cells?’” says Sollars.

As he explains, the process that cells undergo to become cancer cells ultimately produces a cell that stops listening and cooperating with neighboring cells. That communication, however, is necessary for the complex mixture of cells our bodies contain.

He says, “This grant will investigate a process known as ‘canalization.’ Much like a canal for water directs the flow of water, canalization directs a cell as it matures into the specific type of cell needed by the body. Disrupting the canalization process can cause a cell to change and lose its direction, potentially pushing it down paths that lead to cancer.”

Sollars said his team will be testing the role of Vincent-Sollars-2012canalization in the process of maturing cells and cancer development. They will be targeting leukemia specifically with this grant but the results of their study can apply to all types of cancers.

“We think our work can have a great impact on science’s understanding of  how cancer progresses and will even help develop new treatments for most cancers,” he added.

This particular award is specifically designed to give students practical opportunities to participate in cutting-edge academic research. Over the course of the project, Sollars anticipates involving eight students from Marshall’s undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as students from the medical school. The grant also will fund a full-time technician.

The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training.

Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964 (o) or 304-552-1287 (c), www.marshall.edu/murc

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Grant to fund MU’s new cancer research

HUNTINGTON — A new concept in cancer treatment will be future explored at Marshall University thanks to a grant from the National Cancer Institute.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Cancer Institute awarded a $432,369 three-year Academic Research Enhancement Award to the Marshall Vincent-Sollars-2012University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine to launch a cancer biology research project in “epigenetics,” a relatively new concept in cancer therapies, according to a press release from Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

The concept deals with a new chemotheraputic target in cancer treatment, said Dr. Vincent E. Sollars, an associate professor of biochemistry and biology at Marshall.

“It’s a great way for me and the students to get involved in some research I’ve wanted to do for some time,” Sollars said. “We’re targeting leukemia specifically with this grant, but the this could have ramifications on all types of cancers.”

Over the course of the three-year project, Marshall University anticipates involving eight students from undergraduate, master’s and doctoral academic programs, as well as students enrolled in the med school.

Sollars said the medical school also will hire a full time technician through the grant.

Vincent E. Sollars, Ph.D.

Vincent Sollars, Ph.D.Director of the Flow Cytometry Core
Associate Professor
Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Research Clusters: Cancer Biology; Infectious and Immunological Diseases
Office: BBSC 336-N | Laboratories: BBSC 313 and 323
Phone: (304) 696-7357 | Fax: (304) 696-7207
E-mail: sollars@marshall.edu
Link to Dr. Sollars’ CV

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