Local group funds UCSC cancer researchers

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Camilla Forsberg
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Lindsay Hinck
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Seth Rubin

The Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group (SCCBG), a local charity supporting cancer research and patient care, has awarded grants of $10,000 each to three researchers at UC Santa Cruz: Camilla Forsberg, assistant professor of biomolecular engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering; Lindsay Hinck, professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology; and Seth Rubin, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Hinck's lab studies the molecular signals that control the development of mammary glands and how disruption of those signals can lead to breast cancer. She and her colleagues have identified breast tumor suppressors that regulate several critical pathways controlling cell proliferation and migration. Her current research focuses on developing therapeutic strategies to target these pathways.

"Breast cancer affects the lives of nearly 200,000 women every year. My laboratory is using the generous gift from the SCCBG to identify therapeutically relevant targets that may suppress tumor growth," Hinck said.

Forsberg studies the changes in cells that can lead to leukemia. Her work focuses on stem cells that give rise to the different kinds of blood cells in our bodies. The goal is to determine how disorganization of the genomic information in blood stem cells leads to cells that behave aberrantly and give rise to leukemia. Ultimately, understanding the differences between normal stem cells and cells that give rise to cancer will aid the development of specific and efficient cancer therapies.

Rubin's lab conducts biochemical studies of the retinoblastoma protein and its role in cancer. The retinoblastoma protein was originally identified as the root cause of a pediatric eye tumor, but it is now thought to be defective in almost all tumors. Rubin's research aims to understand how this protein normally controls the growth and division of cells and why it fails to function properly in cancer cells. Recent findings from his lab shed new light on the molecular mechanisms involved in this process.

The SCCBG has been supporting cancer research at UC Santa Cruz since 2005. The group holds several annual events to raise funds for the programs it supports, including a food and wine festival, the 7th Annual Gourmet Grazing on the Green, which will be held at Aptos Park on Saturday, September 25. More information is available on the SCCBG web site.