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Building a Better Cancer Trap

Courtesy of East Carolina University

Multidisciplinary Research Grant

An East Carolina University research scientist is using a $250,000 grant from the Biotechnology Center to develop a better cancer trap.

Qun Lu, Ph.D., an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, is the principal investigator on the Multidisciplinary Research Grant (MRG) to study the potential effectiveness of using a certain protein in urine as a non-invasive test for prostate cancer.

If the work goes as hoped, it could be far more accurate than the long-used standard for men searching for signs of the disease – the prostate specific antigen, or PSA, test.

Lu’s 2012 funding award was based on his finding that prostate cancer is accompanied by the body’s overproduction of a certain protein. He and colleagues believe that protein could be useful as a biological warning beacon – known as a biomarker – for prostate cancer, when detected in a urine sample.

Increasingly, researchers are recognizing that complex problems in science can be solved most effectively through collaborations involving experts of different disciplines.

The MRG program requires North Carolina scientists in at least three fields to collaborate equally. Lu's research team, for example, includes Drs. Qiang Wu of biostatistics, Heng Hong of pathology and laboratory medicine, and Yan-Hua Chen of anatomy and cell biology, all at ECU, and Jeannette Benson, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.