Fox Chase Cancer Center's Joseph Testa receives 1999 Irving J. Selikoff Award for Cancer Research

December 02, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (December 3, 1999)-Dr. Joseph R. Testa of Churchville, Pa., a cancer geneticist who directs the human genetics program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, received a 1999 Irving J. Selikoff Award for Cancer Research today at a luncheon and forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Ramazzini Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health Research bestows the Selikoff Awards, which are named for a pioneer in occupational and environmental health. The award honors Testa for "outstanding contributions in understanding the origins of mesothelioma." This cancer, associated with exposure to loose asbestos, usually starts in the chest lining, or mesothelium, of the chest cavity and lungs, but it can spread aggressively to the lining of the abdomen and to other organs.

Although no one has yet determined exactly how much asbestos exposure is necessary to cause mesothelioma, Testa's laboratory research is revealing the various cancerous changes that occur in affected cells. This knowledge may lead to earlier detection and also help improve treatment and prevention. Testa uses an array of techniques to examine the genetic alterations produced in the formation of mesothelioma. This kind of research may show how normal cells become cancer cells and provide clues about how to halt this process at the molecular level.

Finding that mesothelioma cells have lost some basic genetic material, Testa has pinpointed missing segments on seven different chromosomes-the rodlike, DNA-packed structures that carry all the genes in a cell. In two of these chromosomes, he has identified genes that are missing or fail to function in mesothelioma cells. His research team is working to identify the affected genes in the five other damaged chromosomes.

All appear to be "anticancer" or tumor-suppressor genes-genes that normally act to suppress cancerous growth. This and other genetic actions are carried out by proteins-the body's workhorses-with each gene ordering the cell to make a different protein at the appropriate time. But when a gene is lost or inactive, the protein is not produced. This basic research to target specific genes involved in mesothelioma lays the foundation for future therapies tailored to each patient.

"Identifying the protein each gene produces will provide a blueprint for new drugs," Testa said. "Such drugs would mimic these proteins and might restore the cells' normal function." In effect, this might return cancer cells to normal rather than killing them-the aim of current cancer treatment. Meanwhile, early detection remains key for those at risk of mesothelioma. The disease is hard to diagnose, so it is crucial for patients to tell their doctors if they have been exposed to loose asbestos and might be among the 3,000 Americans who develop mesothelioma every year.

Testa receives support for his research from the Mesothelioma Fund established in 1992 by Local 14 of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers in partnership with the Insulation Contractors Association. The membership of each contributes an equal amount on an ongoing basis for every hour worked in the insulation industry.

Within a few months, after Fox Chase Cancer Center's new Prevention Pavilion is complete, Testa and his medical colleagues plan to start a new program for Local 14 members at high risk of mesothelioma. Although the program will start with screening, early detection of the cancer is not the only goal. Testa will study cell samples to look for genetic markers and other evidence of cellular changes leading to cancer. The hope is to identify premalignant cells and offer early treatment or preventive therapy that will halt or reverse the progression to mesothelioma.

The late Dr. Selikoff founded the Ramazzini Institute in 1992 as a multi-national institute-without-walls to promote research partnerships among scientists from universities and medical centers with government, foundations, unions and employers. The Selikoff Awards program recognizes scientists for new discoveries about molecular changes in cells, how they repair themselves and how to detect damaged cells.

In addition to Testa, Dr. William N. Rom of New York University School of Medicine received a Selikoff Award for Cancer Research, for "outstanding contributions in understanding the origins of lung cancer." Dr. Antonio Giordano of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, a member of the Ramazzini Institute board, presented this year's awards.

The program included a keynote speech by Dr. Linda Rosenstock, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and a six-member panel discussing "The Status of Genetic Testing in the Workplace." Testa spoke on "Mesothelioma, Genes and the Workplace."

Past Selikoff Award winners include Dr. Alfred G. Knudson Jr. of Center City Philadelphia, a Fox Chase Cancer Center Distinguished Scientist. He and Dr. Joseph F. Fraumeni Jr. of the National Cancer Institute shared the 1996 award as "leaders in cell genetics to detect and redirect the chain of events that lead to cancer."
-end-
Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 36 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.