University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Foundation
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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

June 2007 Archives

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University of Minnesota researchers have received a $1.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to lead the largest study to date on the causes of pediatric osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma, which affects the long bones of the arm or leg, is the most common type of bone cancer in U.S. children. Each year about 400 children are diagnosed with the disease.

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Schelomo Marmor is working in Japan with the Nagasaki Association for Hibakusha's Medical Care and the University of Nagasaki. He is conducting research on survivors of the World War II atomic bombs with the hope of caring for those who have been exposed to radiation in Japan and beyond. Marmor says the experience is showing him the most important aspect of an epidemiological study: the human element.

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Peggie Toomey Notarianni has always had an interest in promoting health. After graduating from the University of Minnesota's dental hygiene program in 1950, the Minneapolis native moved to Denver to work in private practice and then in a program to teach nutrition and proper tooth-brushing techniques to schoolchildren. She spent an additional 25 years volunteering for Kids in Need of Dentistry, a program that provides low-cost dental care to children in low-income families. Several years later, Peggie and her husband, Aldo Notarianni, learned about the work Traci Toomey was doing in the School of Public Health's Division of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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Heavy smokers who cut down on cigarettes take in more toxins than light smokers, even when the number of cigarettes smoked per day is identical. The finding comes from the University of Minnesota Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC). TTURC researchers measured the levels of a specific tobacco carcinogen called NNAL in smokers who were part of smoking reduction programs. As TTURC design and study analysis director, SPH professor Chap Le served as the study's lead biostatistician.

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Cancer often isn't detected until it has progressed to late stages, making it difficult to treat. With the goal of improving cancer prevention, SPH associate professor Betsy Wattenberg is working to understand the very earliest stages of the disease—namely what happens to cells when cancer strikes. In her lab, Wattenberg and colleagues are studying the changes in cells that lead to cancer. Cells are normally highly regulated and in constant communication with each other through a network of "switches." When cancer develops, that high level of communication is disrupted and switches within the cells are turned permanently on or off.

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The School of Public Health will take over management of cancer studies among taconite workers in Minnesota's Iron Range. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) had been planning the research, but the state agency came under fire for keeping quiet about deaths among Iron Range residents from a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.


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