University of Rochester

American Cancer Society Gives Chemist $76,000 Grant

March 14, 2002

The American Cancer Society has given University of Rochester postdoctoral research associate Sherry Spinelli $76,000 in grant money to pursue a new method to zero in and eradicate a lesser known disease that frequently attacks those with cancer. The research may even open a door to a way to attack the cancer cells themselves.

Spinelli, a University of Rochester researcher, is studying candida, an infectious agent that is particularly dangerous to those with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients. Her research will attempt to develop a molecular therapy targeting a specific function within the candida cell that is vital to the life of that cell. The designed molecule will enter the cell and form a tight bond with a part of the cell's genetic machinery called RNA, disrupting the normal structure of the RNA to inhibit function, and ultimately destroying the candida cell. Because the chosen RNA target is exclusive to candida cells, the human host cells would be unharmed. If successful, this method could also be used to target and destroy cancer cells.

"If we can develop a molecule that will bind RNA in a specific cell, RNA that is exclusive to the pathogenic cell, that will result in a therapy with minimal side effects, and most importantly a cure for that disease," says Spinelli. "Ultimately, the principles developed can be applied to a wide range of RNA targets in human disease."

"We need to be on the cutting edge of research to find better therapeutic alternatives to attack cancer cells and improve the quality of life for the 83,700 New Yorkers who will be diagnosed with cancer this year," says Ann Savastano, regional executive for the American Cancer Society's Lakes Region office. "Spinelli's research not only shows promise in combating the infectious diseases that plague many cancer patients; but in combating the cancer cell itself."

The American Cancer Society dedicates more money to cancer research than any other private, not-for-profit, non-government funder of cancer research in the United States, spending approximately $100 million each year. Some $35 million is currently supporting research in New York and New Jersey. Some of the research currently supported by the American Cancer Society includes exploring a nutrition link to prostate cancer, the benefits of a telephone support network for breast cancer patients and ways to educate future oncology social workers.

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy and service. For more information about the American Cancer Society, call (800) ACS-2345 or visit its Web site at