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Biomedical Engineering

Community Foundation for Brevard Funds Florida Tech Medical Research

Nearly $80K in Grants for
Ongoing Cancer Studies

MELBOURNE, FLA. — The Community Foundation for Brevard awarded Florida Institute of Technology researchers nearly $80,000 under the Medical Research Grant to Find Cause and/or Cure for Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and Other Pervasive Diseases initiative. The competitive program is funded from the Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund based at the Community Foundation.

One grant, for $40,000, will assist a trio of Florida Tech researchers in their efforts to develop new anti-cancer drugs. Eric Guisbert, Nasri Nesnas and Karen Kim Guisbert, in the department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and Sciences, have initiated a drug discovery program to inhibit HSF1 protein expression.

HSF1 is a key component of how normal cells respond to stress, but HSF1 accumulates in cancer patients and cancer cells become addicted to this protein. This makes cancer cells more sensitive to HSF1 inhibition than normal cells. Additionally, cancer patients with the highest levels of HSF1 have the worst outcomes, meaning that this new strategy could help patients who do not respond well to current therapies.

A second grant, for $39,523, will assist Kunal Mitra, professor of biomedical engineering, in research also related to cancer. Cryotherapy, or freezing the tumor, and radiofrequency ablation, which uses radio waves to destroy the tumor, have been used to treat some cases of liver cancer but with varying degree of success.

The ability to model such tumor microenvironments in vitro is an important advantage to the study of tumor progression and chemotherapy drug development. An accurate representation of the tumor microenvironment can be achieved using a 3D cell culture model which will allow for investigating the optimal temperature range which will result in liver cancer cell death.

“The Community Foundation for Brevard is proud of our ongoing partnership with Florida Tech and deeply honored to be stewards of the Finken family legacy, which enables researchers to pursue promising medical advances in pervasive disease research,” said Theresa Grimison, president and CEO of the Foundation.

Kenneth Finken was a graduate of Columbia University and held four patents. He retired from the Government Electronic Systems division of Harris Corporation.

Over the last 11 years, Florida Tech researchers have been awarded 17 individual medical research grants via the Community Foundation that have a combined value of nearly $510,000.

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