Women's Health Grants Awarded for 2006

Two Yale School of Medicine investigators—one studying inflammation’s role in cancer and the other studying brain estrogen receptors in men and women—are recipients of new grants from Women’s Health Research at Yale, through its grant-making arm, The Ethel F. Donaghue Women’s Health Investigator Program at Yale.

The researchers, Carlo Bifulco, assistant professor in pathology, and Julie Staley, associate professor of psychiatry and diagnostic radiology, each will receive grants of $50,000 in direct costs.

“This year’s researchers continue in the tradition of our prior investigators in that they have a clear commitment to generating new and useful scientific knowledge about women’s health,” said Carolyn Mazure, professor of psychiatry and director of Women’s Health Research at Yale. “This knowledge will result in practical benefits in the health and well-being of women.”

The Ethel F. Donaghue Women’s Health Investigator Program at Yale was established in 1998 with an initial five-year, $6.5 million grant from the Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation. As part of Women’s Health Research at Yale, the Donaghue Program provides pilot funds to foster the development of new research about the health and health care of women.

Bifulco is studying the macrophage migration inhibitor factor (MIF), which plays a significant role in the inflammatory response that contributes to susceptibility to multiple carcinogens and to tumor progression. Variations in the promoter region of the MIF gene that affect the regulation of the protein have been linked to the incidence and clinical severity of several autoimmune inflammatory disorders.

Bifulco will characterize the role of mutations of the MIF gene in the incidence and aggressiveness of women’s cancers. His findings will address the possibility of inflammation as a target of chemoprevention and therapy and may contribute to the identification of groups of patients most sensitive to anti-inflammatory chemoprevention. It is hoped that the findings will support the use of small molecule therapy directed at MIF for treating women’s cancer. This approach is presently in clinical development for inflammatory disorders.

In her research project, Staley will use a new radioactive drug called [123]MIE2 for its potential to image estrogen receptors in the brain by single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). She will look for receptor differences between men and women in the receptors. “Specifically,” she said, “we will determine how much [123]MIE2 gets into the brain and where it goes in the brain.” Follow up experiments would measure breakdown products of [123]MIE2 blood to control for individual differences in how the drug is metabolized.

Estrogen receptors are known to play a role in several disorders, including postnatal and postmenopausal depression, major depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. Staley said these studies will help to better understand the role that estrogens and their receptors play in the unique neurochemical signature of the female brain.

Women’s Health Research at Yale has recently announced its 2007 grant cycle invitation for Letters of Intent, which are due December 11, 2006. Full applications will be requested from those investigators whose proposed projects are consistent with WHRY funding interests. Further information about the 2007 application process is online.

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