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ExxonMobil Foundation Invests $1 Million in M. D. Anderson's Science Park - Research Division Program; Innovative Research to Explore Novel Genes

Published 06-19-00

Submitted by ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil Foundation has presented a $1 million grant to The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center's Science Park - Research Division in Smithville, Texas. The ExxonMobil Foundation grant, one of the largest private contributions Science Park has received, will advance research to discover novel genes that control susceptibility to several classes of carcinogens.

At Science Park, a team of about 200 researchers and staff focuses on how the environment, which includes some viruses, a high-fat diet, lifestyle and radiation, may cause cancer. It was a research team at Science Park that originally discovered in 1997 the first molecular evidence directly linking a cigarette carcinogen and human lung cancer. Further understanding of the causes and mechanisms underlying the process of cancer is key to helping figure out how to prevent it.

"Cancer is the result of the interaction of the environment and an individual's genetic makeup," explains Dr. John DiGiovanni, director of Science Park - Research Division and chairman of the Department of Carcinogenesis. "Identifying genes that control susceptibility to the action of carcinogenic agents in model systems will pave the way for their study in humans. This forward-thinking grant from ExxonMobil Foundation will enable us to take advantage of new technologies that allow simultaneous identification of large numbers of genes that may control susceptibility to these carcinogens."

Through ExxonMobil Foundation funding, M. D. Anderson's scientists will closely investigate modifier genes in animal models, which in the cancer development process are the genes that regulate responses to carcinogens and play a major role in determining an individual's susceptibility to developing cancer from carcinogenic agents.

"Once the modifier genes are identified, researchers can further study their role in the development of cancer in animals, and then begin studies in humans," Dr. DiGiovanni says. "In the future, researchers hope to apply this knowledge to identifying people who are at high risk of developing cancer from these agents and, ideally, determine how to prevent cancer."

ExxonMobil's investment in the pioneering work of the cancer center began in 1973. "Our million-dollar grant continues a long-standing partnership between ExxonMobil and M. D. Anderson," notes Harry J. Longwell, ExxonMobil senior vice president and director and a member of M. D. Anderson's Board of Visitors. "The assistance we are providing through this grant will advance the knowledge of cancer and its prevention and will have practical application to a wide range of health issues. The fight against cancer is a long, expensive and dynamic process, and we are pleased to assist this innovative research effort that will benefit so many."

In addition to the $1 million grant, ExxonMobil has contributed more than $4.2 million to M. D. Anderson programs during the last 27 years, including construction of the diagnostic imaging center in the Albert B. and Margaret M. Alkek Hospital; pediatric programs; the Children's Art Project and other research in the carcinogenesis process, breast and brain cancer and molecular therapy.

The Science Park - Research Division is designated as one of 19 Environmental Health Sciences Centers by the National Institute of Environmental Sciences. Science Park also maintains one of the best records in the nation in terms of competing successfully for federal and private research grants.

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