News Feature | May 21, 2014

University of Louisville Receives $5.5M For Cancer Research

By Estel Grace Masangkay


The James Graham Brown Cancer Center at the University of Louisville has been awarded a three year, $5.5 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust for its progress in drug and vaccine development over the past three years.

The cancer center is working on developing new, plant-based vaccines and treatments for cancer. UofL first collaborated with Owensboro Health seven years ago on the research program, which the new grant will support. The awarded funding will help researchers to advance cervical and colon cancer vaccines into clinical trials. Under the direction of cancer center director Dr. Donald Miller, the team will develop plant-based medecines and vaccines to bring high concentrations of cancer-fighting drugs to cancerous tumors. The plants involved in the research range from soybeans to tobacco to colored berries.

John Codey, a trustee with the Helmsley trust, said, “The work of Dr. Miller and his team has the potential to significantly impact health around the world. They are focusing on finding much less expensive methods for delivering vaccines and medications so that these treatments are accessible to even the poorest of countries. We are pleased to continue to support efforts that have the potential to relieve suffering for a significant segment of people around the world.” Codey added that available products to fight cancer are too expensive today. For instance, the three-shot series available on the market which aims to stop cervical cancer has a price tag of $130 per shot.

Dr. A. Bennett Jenson and Shin-je Ghim, scientists who helped produce the first cervical cancer vaccines, are working on a tobacco-based version, which could cost as little as $3. Their work is expected to advance into pre-investigational new drug studies to speed its move towards the market.

Scientists at the UofL are also working on a tobacco-based cervical cancer vaccine and an oral cholera vaccine that may help prevent colon cancer. These are expected to enter clinical trials soon. Dr. Miller said, “Our goal is to cure cancer in people, not in mice. To have an organization like the Helmsley Charitable Trust partner with us will enable us to move toward our goal at a much quicker pace.”