Dr. Park Receives DOD Kidney Cancer Idea Development Grant

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) awarded Jung Wook Park, PhD, a three-year, $600,000 Cancer Idea Development Grant for his research titled “Defining Cellular and Genetic Factors for Renal Cell Carcinoma Subtypes.”

“The objective of our proposed research project is to define recurrent genetic alterations that can initiate kidney cancer and determine which normal kidney cell types can turn into cancer cells,” said Park.

Currently, research on this disease has been limited by the availability of clinically relevant animal and cell line models. These models do not encompass the diversity of genetic changes that have been previously observed in research to be associated with kidney cancer; therefore, it’s important to develop new preclinical kidney cancer models. In order to do so, Park’s lab came up with an experimental approach called “human cell transformation assay,” with which they can engineer normal human cells into cancer cells by manipulating specific cancer-associated genes. This method allows choosing which genes to change so that each model will better mimic what is seen in patients.

Using this method, Park’s lab will create a panel of these kidney cancer cell lines that encompass kidney cancer subtypes that are currently known. These disease models can then be used to screen for new drugs and therapies that can target each specific subtype.

“There are a lot of smart people out there who are going to fix cancer, but I want to detect it early and block the transformation of cells, preventing one type of cancer from becoming another,” said Park. “If you have a blueprint of your house, then you can safely fix any problem in it. Our team is making many different blueprints to build various cancer cells, which will help us prevent and break down cancer cells specifically and safely in patients,” he added.

Park is a Rollie Assistant Professorship of Correlative Pathology, Assistant Professor in Pathology and a member of the Duke Cancer Institute.