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Colleen Curran Selected to Join Global Cancer Task Force

Madison, Wisconsin - As more and more people are affected by cancer every day around the world, it seems only fitting that world-wide collaborations spring up to focus research and push science toward life-changing discoveries.


Colleen CurranColleen Curran, a molecular and environmental toxicology post-doctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), has been selected to join forces with more than 350 cancer researchers from prominent research institutions in 31 countries to tackle cancer’s complexity.


The initiative, called “The Halifax Project,” involves two separate task forces. One will take what has been learned about cancer’s complexity to design an entirely new approach to therapy, while the other will assess whether or not everyday exposures to mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals have a role in causing cancer.


This collaborative international initiative is being led by a non-governmental organization called “Getting to Know Cancer.” Within the project, Curran will be working on one of 12 cross-functional teams of scientists that will each be focused on a different aspect of cancer biology. The task force will spend the next year reviewing what is now known about cancer’s complexity and then study the risks associated with everyday exposures to mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals.


“Gathering various mindsets is a strong way to develop research and the process will likely shed light on how much we do and don't know about carcinogen-induced tumors,” said Curran, who works in Patricia Keely’s lab on the UW campus.


“The development of tumors in humans is a multi-faceted process. We are exposed to various toxins that may be influenced by genetic mutations, epigenetic alterations, cellular changes observed with age and hormones, or the immune system response. These reviews will hopefully offer some new insight into cancer development and treatment.”


In Keely’s lab, Curran is currently examining how breast density affects the ability of tumor cells to respond to hypoxia and the metabolism of toxins. Keely is part of the UW Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) Tumor Microenvironment Scientific Program, which investigates how tumor cells interact with their environment and how that interaction affects tumor formation, growth, progression and metastasis.


“Although we have learned a lot about the risks associated with certain individual chemicals that are now known to be carcinogens, we know surprisingly little about the cancer risks that might be attributable to the combined effects of the many chemicals that we encounter in our everyday lives,” said Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment University at Albany, New York. “This project is a very positive step forward because we are still learning about the many factors associated with the cause of the disease.”


Getting to Know Cancer Cooperative Ltd. is a public-interest, non-profit organization based in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was launched in 2011 with a mission to instigate applied integrative cancer research. The organization’s inception was inspired by a number of cancer-related deaths in the families of the two co-founders, and they have since been focused on finding ways to address a number of systemic barriers that they believe are slowing down the progress of cancer research. Visit the organization’s website

Date Published: 07/11/2013

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Colleen Curran Selected to Join Global Cancer Task Force

Last updated: 09/13/2013
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