Cancer Institute of New Jersey, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School ResearcherReceives ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ Grant

Dr. Estela Jacinto is one of 13 to Share in $9.74 Million Award to Young Scientists
April 4, 2011

New Brunswick, N.J.– Estela Jacinto, PhD, a research member at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, has been named as one of 13 young scientists to share in a $9.74 million grant from ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ (SU2C), an organization formed by leaders in the film and media industries devoted to raising public interest in new avenues of cancer research.  CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

The honor comes as part of the second round of awards for SU2C’s Innovative Research Grants (IRG) Program, which will focus on high-risk/high-reward translational cancer research.  The grants were announced during an event at the 2011 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 102nd Annual Meeting being held this week in Orlando. The awards are designed to provide financial support to the next generation of research leaders and continue SU2C’s overarching commitment to cutting-edge translational research. 

Over a three-year period, each of the 13 recipients will receive a total of up to $750,000 as part of the IRG Program, which made its first round of 13 grants in December 2009 and was designed specifically to support work that incorporates new ideas and new approaches to solve critical problems in cancer research.

Dr. Jacinto is being recognized for her work in “Targeting Protein Quality Control for Cancer Therapy.”

As described by Jacinto, the normal growth and proliferation of cells is orchestrated by a cascade of events that are initiated by the binding of a stimulus to a receptor at the membrane. Once triggered, the receptor communicates to the rest of the cell via recruitment of a number of signaling molecules. In cancer, the alteration of growth or survival signals can ultimately cause the signaling circuits to go out of control. Abnormal changes in receptor levels generate more cell changes that lead to uncontrolled growth. Most cancer therapy takes advantage of this phenomenon. Current drugs bind to these growth receptors at the membrane. However, drug resistance can develop over time.

Recently, Jacinto discovered that a protein complex, mTORC2, which is known for its function in activating the protein Akt, has a crucial role in protein production and quality control. Jacinto found that mTORC2 also controls growth receptors such as epidermal growth factor receptor.  She will examine this novel function of mTORC2 in regulating epidermal growth factor receptor expression and quality control. Inhibiting mTORC2 in cancer would prevent cell survival and blocking the expression of epidermal growth factor receptor before it reaches the cell membrane, thereby preventing growth of cancer cells. Jacinto will use cell and experimental models to inhibit mTORC2 in breast cancer cells.

Jacinto’s work in this area could have implications in a number of cancer types, and ultimately reveal new modes of therapy for breast cancer and other malignancies.

About The Cancer Institute of New Jersey
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. CINJ’s physician-scientists engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support CINJ, call 732-235-8614 or visit CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

The CINJ Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital, and Cooper University Hospital. Affiliate Hospitals: CentraState Healthcare System, JFK Medical Center, Mountainside Hospital, Raritan Bay Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), Somerset Medical Center, The University Hospital/UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School*, and University Medical Center at Princeton. *Academic Affiliate

About Stand Up To Cancer
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) was established by leaders from the film and media industries who utilize the resources of those businesses in unique ways to get the public involved in supporting a new model of cancer research. The group produced two major televised events, in 2008 and 2010, that raised funds for teams of scientists collaborating on research that will get new therapies to patients quickly in order to save lives now. More than 100 celebrities participated in each program, conveying how cancer connects us all, and telling the stories both of people who survived the disease, as well as those taken by it. All of the major U.S. TV networks donated airtime for the broadcasts, which ran in more than 195 countries and raised millions of dollars for research.

About the AACR
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which consists of over 33,000 scientists engaged in the fight against cancer, is the oldest and largest scientific organization in the world focusing on every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research from the bench to the bedside. Lauded internationally for its scientific breadth, innovation and spread of new knowledge about cancer, the AACR is on the front lines in the quest for the prevention and cure of cancer. The AACR holds meetings on critical cancer research topics around the world and publishes seven major cancer research journals. As Stand Up To Cancer’s scientific partner, the AACR is responsible for administering the grants, and — in conjunction with the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David H. Koch Institute at MIT — providing scientific leadership and oversight.

Michele Fisher


precision medicine at Rutgers Cancer Institute







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