Pharmacy faculty member receives career development award from NCI

September 11, 2012

An assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy (CoP) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo has received a career development award of $675,000 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This is a first for UH Hilo, and the only award of this type from the NCI to be given to a Native Hawaiian in the entire UH System.

The five-year career development award, named the “NCI Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01),” was awarded to Dana-Lynn T. Koʻomoa-Lange. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) requirement of the award is that the research be performed “under the guidance of an experienced mentor, or sponsor, in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences leading to research independence.” Dean John Pezzuto is the faculty mentor for the grant.

“This is a highly competitive and prestigious award, one which very few in the entire University of Hawaiʻi System will ever have a chance to receive. “Dana is a very talented scientist who is destined to be one of our stars,” said Pezzuto, who is well known for his research that identified resveratrol as a cancer-fighting agent in grapes and grape products.

Koʻomoa-Lange’s research, entitled “MYCN-induced calcium and magnesium signaling regulates neuroblastoma progression,” will concentrate on finding an effective treatment strategy for advanced stage neuroblastoma (NB), an extra-cranial pediatric cancer. “This study may identify new biomarkers for advanced stage NB, and reveal novel targets for the development of more effective chemotherapeutic drugs,” she stated in her proposal.

Koʻomoa-Lange grew up in Hawaiʻi and received her bachelor’s degree in biology from San Diego State University. She earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Biology and Medicine (Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology) at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and returned to Hawaiʻi to work as a post-doctoral associate at the Center for Biomedical Research at Queen’s Medical Center. Her second post-doctoral position was with the Cancer Research Center of Hawaiʻi (now called the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center), where she worked with André S. Bachmann, who is now the chair of CoP’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. She joined the CoP faculty in 2011.

According to Bachmann, who has been researching neuroblastomas for the last 10 years, “I am very pleased Dana will have the opportunity to focus on treatment strategies for this dreadful disease that accounts for about 15 percent of all childhood cancer deaths each year. She is a brilliant scientist. We all hope her work will make a difference.”

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