University News

College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Receives Grant from National Cancer Institute for Pediatric Neuroblastoma Research

Published: January 30, 2024 | Categories: Faculty, All News, Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Dr. Dana-Lynn Koʻomoa-Lange

Western New England University (WNE) is proud to announce the awarding of an R15 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to Dr. Dana-Lynn Koʻomoa-Lange, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pharmacology in the Department of Pharmaceutical & Administrative Sciences within the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. This three-year, $423,743 grant, titled "Manipulating Aberrant Calcium Signaling to Target Relapsed High-Risk Neuroblastoma," underscores WNE's commitment to advancing scientific understanding and fostering innovative solutions.

R15 grants are awarded to support meritorious research but also to expose students to research, which is an exceptional opportunity for our graduate, pharmacy and undergraduate students to participate in groundbreaking cancer research. Dr. Ko’omoa-Lange research focus is on high-risk Neuroblastoma (HRNB), an extracranial pediatric cancer notorious for its resistance to existing therapies, resulting in a significant mortality rate among affected children. About 50% of children diagnosed with stage 4 disease do not survive 5-years. Despite recent biomedical advances in Neuroblastoma treatment, there remains a critical gap in addressing relapsed HRNB cases. Dr. Koʻomoa-Lange's research zeroes in on the pivotal role of aberrant calcium (Ca2+) signaling in driving disease progression. While previous efforts in identifying Ca2+ channel inhibitors have shown promise, their lack of specificity often leads to undesirable side effects. Dr. Koʻomoa-Lange's approach is unique, focusing on identifying specific aberrant Ca2+ signals unique to relapsed HRNB. The NCI funding will facilitate an in-depth study of elevated cytosolic Ca2+ levels in relapsed HRNB, driven by enhanced store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE). This project aims to unravel the intricacies of mitochondrial Ca2+ overload and apoptosis, offering new avenues for targeted therapeutic interventions.

This project is another wonderful example of the invaluable research being performed within the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at WNE. The R15 will provide an amazing opportunity for interested neuroscience, pharmacy and graduate students to work with an internationally renowned researcher studying the challenges of neuroblastoma, with an opportunity to affect how this terrible disease is treated in the future.

"We are grateful for the National Cancer Institute's support, which empowers our researchers to make strides in understanding and combating high-risk Neuroblastoma. Dr. Koʻomoa-Lange's leadership and commitment to mentorship align perfectly with Western New England University's mission to prepare work-ready and world-ready graduates," said Dr. John Pezzuto, Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.