Murdock grant supports cancer research

A $39,500 life sciences grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust is funding breast cancer research under the supervision of biology professor John Schmitt. Four undergraduate students in the biology department are helping with the two-year project “Vitamin D Regulation in Breast Cancer Cells.” The 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.

“We appreciate the faith Murdock has shown us as we explore ways to prevent cancer – the second-leading cause of non-infectious deaths worldwide – and specifically, breast cancer, the most common form of cancer among women in the U.S.,” Schmitt said. “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 genes and cellular proteins that may be altered in cancer is an area of intensive investigation.”

“In particular, understanding how cellular proteins, such as enzymes, function enables scientists to evaluate whether these proteins may be involved in various diseases such as breast cancer.”

John Schmitt and his biology students are conducting cancer research, thanks in part to the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.Recent work in Schmitt’s laboratory identified a novel molecular and biochemical pathway that contributes to breast cancer cell growth. Specifically, he and his students discovered that the hormone estrogen and the chemical carbachol promote the activation of several specific cellular enzymes leading to the growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells.

Schmitt, who has nearly 10 years of research experience in the field of cell and molecular biology, recently published a manuscript of his breast cancer research, entitled “ERK Activation and Cell Growth Require CaM Kinases in MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells,” in the scholarly journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry.

The grant provides financial support for numerous chemicals, cells and reagents critical to the research project. In addition, it funds stipends for two research students and includes more than $13,000 to support the purchase of new laboratory equipment. George Fox is contributing half ($6,500) of the money to fund the laboratory equipment purchase.

Including the university’s contribution, the grant total is $46,000 and will be split over two years.