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2020 - 2021 UT Medical Center Cancer Research Endowment Update (Scroll Down for a Message from the Director)

In 2015, The University of Tennessee Medical Center’s Cancer Institute led by John L. Bell, MD, identified the need to build an endowment to fund cancer research on the campus of the medical center and its academic partner, the UT Graduate School of Medicine. In collaboration with the Development Office and led by volunteer fundraising co-chairs, Steve and Becky South, a campaign was launched to raise at least $3 million to support promising research.

The campaign exceeded its stated goal, raising $5.5 million. The endowment has continued to grow to the point that the first grant applications were accepted and funded in early 2020. All funds were raised in the East Tennessee community with over 1,191 donors supporting the endeavor. Below are audio recordings of the three grant recipients for the 2020-2021 grant cycle.

Message from the Director

Click play below to hear a message from Dr. John Bell, director of the Cancer Institute at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.

2020-2021 Grant Recipients and Research Project Overviews

Jillian Lloyd, MD, MPH, FACS

An interdisciplinary approach to reducing health disparities for low income Appalachian women with estrogen-positive breast cancer

There are substantial health disparities in the Appalachian region especially for patients with breast cancer, who have a 15% higher chance of dying from the disease compared to the rest of the country.

This study aims to reduce health disparities in Appalachia using a biopsychosocial approach to identify the association between the patient/caregiver relationship qualities (support and strain) and mutable factors (e.g. physiological and psychological distress).

The goal of the study is to elucidate the biopsychosocial pathways to enable improved estrogen-positive breast cancer treatment and reduce health disparities among patients with estrogen positive breast cancer.

Collaborator: University of Tennessee College of Nursing, Knoxville TN Research Team: Patricia Roberson, Ph.D.

Larry Kilgore, MD, FACOG, FACS

Developing a coordinated model to increase HPV vaccine education, recommendations and uptake

The number of human papillomavirus-related cancer cases has dramatically increased by nearly 45 percent over the past 15 years.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is the only vaccine available to prevent cancer and it is highly effective, yet vaccination coverage is below Healthy People 2020 goals. The fields of dentistry and pharmacy can play an important role in developing a more coordinated model of care to increase HPV vaccination coverage and decrease HPV related cancers.

The proposed study will assess dental health provider knowledge of HPV and confidence in discussing the HPV vaccine pre and post-educational intervention in East Tennessee and determine accessibility of the HPV vaccination among regional pharmacies using novel methodologies.

Research Team: Nikki Zite, MD, Jill Maples, Ph.D., Samantha Gregory, Megan Lacy, Tyler Davis, DDS

Laurentia Nodit, MD

Oral microbiome changes in cancer therapy-induced oral mucositis: a pilot study

Cancer therapy-induced oral mucositis (CTOM) is a frequent and devastating side-effect secondary to cancer treatment, estimated to occur in approximately 40% of patients undergoing chemotherapy and almost 100% of those treated by chemo-radiation therapy for head and neck cancers. It can cause significant pain, eating difficulty and increased use of total parenteral nutrition, infection risk and opioid use.

Using healthy volunteers and patients with oral cancer at the time of diagnosis, as well as during and after chemo-radiation treatment, this study will evaluate oral bacterial composition before, during and after therapy.

Understanding microbiome changes may provide promising new directions toward novel diagnostic tools, biomarkers and therapeutic interventions for CTOM.

Collaborator: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN.

Research Team:Joseph Kelley, MD, Ante Bruckbauer, Ph.D., Timothy Panella, MD and Mircea Podar, Ph.D.

For more information on the Cancer Research Endowment and how you can support our researchers, please contact the Development Office at development@utmck.edu or 865-305-6611.