The Cancer Center at Illinois at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is supporting three new cancer research projects through its planning grant initiative.

Recipients will each receive up to $25,000 to spark innovative research projects that have promise to earn future external and federal funding. The planning grants are used to bring together faculty from multiple disciplines to develop collaborative ideas, workshops, and programs or collect preliminary data over the course of one year.

“The Cancer Center at Illinois is fostering bottom-up initiatives from our CCIL members and cancer scientists across campus to develop new resources and innovative technologies that will allow the Center and the University of Illinois to expand its cancer knowledge, explore new partnerships, and continue forward in our fight against cancer,” Paul Hergenrother, CCIL Deputy Director, said.

Three projects were selected during the 2020-2021 funding cycle. They include:

Project Title: Identifying Pathways for Therapeutic Design to Stop Liver Cancer
Principal Investigator: Sayeepriyadarshini Anakk, Associate Professor in Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Research Team: Auinash Kalsotra, Associate Professor in Biochemistry; Stephen Boppart, Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Project Title: Enhancing GBM Immunotherapy Through Peripheral Viral Infection and Inhibition of Immune suppression in the Tumor Microenvironment
Principal Investigator: H. Rex Gaskins, Professor in Animal Sciences
Research Team: Andrew Steelman, Assistant Professor in Animal Sciences; Ed Roy, Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Molecular and Integrative Physiology; Stephen Boppart, Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering; Brendan Harley, Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Project Title: Effect of Dietary Modulation of RAGE/AGE Axis on Prostatic Neuroendocrine Differentiation and the Efficacy of Anticancer Therapies
Principal Investigator: Wawrzyniec Dobrucki, Associate Professor in Bioengineering
Research Team: Erik Nelson, Assistant Professor in Molecular and Integrative Physiology; Gregory Underhill, Associate Professor in Bioengineering

“Building partnerships across campus is a goal we cherish. The distribution of these funds will allow for rapid action in bringing together interdisciplinary investigators focused on a specific cancer topic,” Rohit Bhargava, CCIL Director, said. “Through these awards, the CCIL can support the most innovative and exciting ideas from our campus.”

Previous planning grant activities have led to a variety of new initiatives including collaborations with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) to develop tumor modeling, defining new directions for the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), and the creation of new approaches in advanced microscopy.

— Written by Jordan Goebig, Communications Coordinator