George Fox receives second Murdock grant for cancer research

For the second time in two years, George Fox University has secured a sizable grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to help fund breast cancer research by biology professor John Schmitt and a group of undergraduate students.

The university received approval in March of a second grant – this time in the amount of $37,500 – to continue the project “Vitamin D Regulation in Breast Cancer Cells.” TJohn Schmitt and his biology students are conducting cancer research, thanks in part to the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.he research uses contemporary cellular and molecular biology techniques, as well as biochemical approaches, to explore the ability of vitamin D to block breast cancer cell growth.

In 2010, Schmitt and George Fox received a $39,500 donation to start the project – the first Murdock Life Sciences Grant ever presented to the university. The additional money will allow Schmitt and his students to continue research for two more years and purchase supplies, research equipment and instrumentation.

“This is a tremendous honor … I am so proud of our students, programs and institution,” Schmitt said. “My hope is that through our research we will gain a better understanding of the biological events that participate in cancer cell behavior, primarily breast and prostate cancers.”

According to Schmitt, the initial grant has enabled the identification of a novel cell and molecular pathway that contributes to breast cancer cell growth. In addition, he and his students recently published a manuscript implicating several enzymes involved in prostate cancer progression.

Ultimately, Schmitt hopes that, through this partnership with Murdock, “We will gain a better understanding of the biological events that participate in cancer cell behavior and how we might prevent or stop the disease.”

Cancer is the sJohn Schmittecond-leading cause of non-infectious deaths worldwide. The current goals of the cancer research field are to develop treatments that are highly selective and specific for their target tumor cells. Identifying specific hormones, genes and cellular proteins that may be altered in various cancers is an area of intensive investigation within Schmitt’s laboratory.

According to Schmitt, two important biochemical and molecular pathways that have been implicated in cancer are the ERK and AKT signaling pathways. He has published numerous peer-reviewed abstracts and manuscripts on the molecular mechanisms that may contribute to the regulation of these signaling pathways inside cancer cells (breast, prostate and brain).

Including the university’s contribution, the grant total is $47,500 and will be split over two years.

The M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust seeks to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants and enrichment programs to nonprofit organizations that seek to strengthen the region's educational, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.