Research Roundup: Appalachia Cancer Crisis and Human Genetics, October 2016

The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia

The Bite-Sized Synopsis: Research from the School of Medicine shows that rural Appalachia now has the highest cancer death rates in the country. Nengliang (Aaron) Yao, PhD, and other researchers in UVA’s Department of Public Health Sciences examined decades of data obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics. They found that cancer incidence declined in every region of the country between 1969 and 2011 except rural Appalachia, where it increased.

What This Could Mean for You: The statistics in this report are alarming, and the researchers determined there are several contributing factors that result in rural Appalachia residents not getting the proper treatment. There are economic, political and geographical challenges for people living in these areas of the country. For example, travel times and distance to healthcare providers can be significant. The researchers hope that their findings can bring more attention to the problem to save lives and reduce the burden of cancer for rural Appalachian citizens.

Learn more about these troubling findings.

New Finding Changes the Understanding of Human Genetics

RNA researchThe Bite-Sized Synopsis: Research by Hui Li, PhD, of the Department of Pathology and UVA Cancer Center, is challenging our understanding of human genetics. Until now, strange chimeric or “fusion” RNA — genetic material that results from genes on two different chromosomes — were assumed to be an indicator of cancer. However, Li has determined through his research that some of these fusion RNA can actually be a normal part of genetic programming. “There’s a danger to assuming everything is cancer. That’s actually dangerous. Don’t rush to judgment about all of these chimera you find in cancer cells, because they could occur in normal cells,” said Li.

What This Could Mean for You: There is still more to learn about chimeric RNA, but Li’s findings could change the field of cancer biology. This research will also help to better understand the human genome and create better ways to detect and hopefully defeat cancer.

Find out more about this research discovery.

Carter Center for Immunology Research Celebrates 25 Years

The Bite-Sized Synopsis: It has been 25 years since the founding of the Beirne Carter Center for Immunology Research. Since the founding, the field of immunology has certainly changed and become one of the hottest areas in medical research. Immunology is the field of research that focuses on the body’s immune system.

What This Could Mean for You: UVA researchers have developed an experimental vaccine to battle melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, an example of this cutting-edge immunotherapy. There is the potential to use immunotherapy to battle other disorders such as multiple sclerosis, AIDS, allergies, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. It has been an exciting 25 years of discoveries for the Carter Center with the best still yet to come. The Beirne Carter Center for Immunology Research marked its silver anniversary with a symposium on Oct. 31.

Learn more about the Carter Immunology Center and their research.

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