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Cancer geneticist gains prestigious research fellowship


Friday 23 October 2009 2:56pm

Associate Professor Parry GuilfordA leading University of Otago geneticist has gained a prestigious James Cook Fellowship to pursue innovative research aimed at reversing or preventing the very early stages of stomach cancer.

The two-year fellowship will allow Associate Professor Parry Guilford of the University's Cancer Genetics Laboratory to extend his ground-breaking work on the genetics of stomach cancer.

James Cook Fellowships, which allow "forward thinking" researchers to undertake concentrated work in their fields of expertise, are funded by the Government and administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Associate Professor Guilford's Fellowship programme is titled "Epigenetic approaches to cancer prevention and therapy" and begins at the start of next year.

Many very early cancers have undergone changes to their genetic structure that can potentially be reversed, he says.

"The initial goal of my programme is to develop a chemoprevention strategy to reverse or prevent the earliest stages of stomach cancer."

Currently, the only preventive measure available is the drastic option of surgically removing the stomach in individuals known to be at high risk, he says.

"This new programme will provide the foundations for establishing clinical trials of 'epigenetic' drugs for people at greatest risk of this disease. These kinds of drugs interfere with mechanisms that enable the cancer to develop."

An epigenetic therapy approach could also potentially be extended to other common cancers, he says.

Associate Professor Guilford says he is delighted to win the Fellowship.

"Epigenetics is an exciting new field sitting at the interface between the environment and the genome. It's a critical player in cancer development and I feel incredibly lucky to get a chance to immerse myself in this area for two years."

For more information, contact

Associate Professor Parry Guilford
Cancer Genetics Laboratory
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 5803

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