Christian University’s Biology Program Secures Grant for Cancer Research

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M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust approves nearly $40,000 for George Fox University's project, entitled “Vitamin D Regulation in Breast Cancer Cells”

George Fox's John Schmitt is teaming with biology students to conduct cancer research.

We appreciate the faith Murdock has shown us as we explore ways to prevent cancer – the second-leading cause of non-infectious deaths worldwide – and specifically, breast cancer, the most common form of cancer among women in the U.S.

George Fox University secured this spring a $39,500 life sciences grant that will fund breast cancer research by biology professor John Schmitt and two of the university’s undergraduate biology major students.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust approved the grant for the project “Vitamin D Regulation in Breast Cancer Cells.” The proposed research will use contemporary cellular and molecular biology techniques, as well as biochemical approaches, to explore the ability of vitamin D to block breast cancer cell growth.

It marks the first time a George Fox professor was awarded a Murdock Life Science Grant from the Murdock Trust.

“We appreciate the faith Murdock has shown us as we explore ways to prevent cancer – the second-leading cause of non-infectious deaths worldwide – and specifically, breast cancer, the most common form of cancer among women in the U.S.,” Schmitt said. “The current goals of the cancer research field are to develop treatments that are highly selective and specific for their target tumor cells. Identifying specific genes and cellular proteins that may be altered in cancer is an area of intensive investigation.”

“In particular, understanding how cellular proteins, such as enzymes, function enables scientists to evaluate whether these proteins may be involved in various diseases such as breast cancer.”

Recent work in Schmitt’s laboratory identified a novel molecular and biochemical pathway that contributes to breast cancer cell growth. Specifically, he and his students discovered that the hormone estrogen and the chemical carbachol promote the activation of several specific cellular enzymes leading to the growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells.

The grant was awarded through both peer-review by fellow scholars within the field and by a panel of experts within the Murdock Trust. The panel summary stated that the “proposal is in a strong biomedical research area and the PI (principal investigator) has a good publication record including undergraduate coauthors.”

Schmitt, who has nearly 10 years of research experience in the field of cell and molecular biology, recently published a manuscript of his breast cancer research, entitled “ERK Activation and Cell Growth Require CaM Kinases in MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells,” in the scholarly journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry.

The grant will provide financial support for numerous chemicals, cells and reagents critical to the research project. In addition, it funds stipends for two research students and includes more than $13,000 to support the purchase of new laboratory equipment. George Fox is contributing half ($6,500) of the money to fund the laboratory equipment purchase.

Including the university’s contribution, the grant total is $46,000 and will be split over two years.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust seeks to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants and enrichment programs to nonprofit organizations that seek to strengthen the region's educational, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes as one of the top 100 colleges in the country and highest among Christian colleges. George Fox is the only Christian university in the Pacific Northwest classified by U.S. News & World Report as a national university. More than 3,300 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem, and Redmond, Ore., and Boise, Idaho. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, five seminary degrees, and 12 master’s and doctoral degrees.

Contact:
John Schmitt
Associate Professor of Biology
503-554-2712

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