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Western University cancer researcher teams up with Chinese scientists to study chemotherapy

Western University cancer researcher Shun-Cheng (Shawn) Li, PhD, has been awarded a China-Canada Joint Health Research Initiative grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The grant, valued at $225,000 over three years, is for a project titled "Systematic identification of dynamic epigenetic modifications in DNA damage repair for novel cancer therapy." Li is a professor in the Departments of Biochemistry, Oncology and Paediatrics at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

These grants are jointly funded by the CIHR and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) to promote Canadian-Chinese scientific co-operation. Fifteen projects are being funded in this round.

"This new grant will really allow us to map the landscape of the epigenetic changes associated with chemotherapy," says Li. "This is a new area in cancer research. We know the epigenetic changes, in addition to the genetic changes, are accounting for cancer and also play a role in drug response in chemotherapy. This work will identify novel targets for more effective cancer treatment."

Li welcomes the collaboration with the Chinese saying, "This will take advantage of the strengths in both labs. Cancer is a very complex disease; we're looking at how cancer is regulated at the epigenetic level. The scope of the project is pretty large and requires a multidisciplinary approach, so combining our skills and expertise will move this project forward much quicker than any lab could do on its own."

The announcement is just the latest recognition for the scientist. The Canadian Cancer Society named Li's research as one of "Canada's top 10 Cancer Research Stories of 2013" at the recent Canadian Cancer Research Conference. He also received a $200,000 Innovation Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society last month to find ways to overcome chemotherapy resistance in women with triple-negative breast cancer. In total, the Canadian Cancer Society has given Li's research $2.1 million since 2001.


Contact: Kathy Wallis
519-661-2111 x81136
University of Western Ontario

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