Noted professor takes on esophageal cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 17,000 men and women were diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2016. Nearly 37,000 live with the disease today. Esophageal cancer is difficult to treat. The five-year survival rate is less than 20 percent.
"The research effort in the United States on this deadly disease is not as intense as it should be," says Associate Professor Zui Pan, a noted esophageal cancer researcher who joined the College of Nursing and Health Innovation in August 2016. "This is a huge priority in the health care space."
Part of her interest is personal, as Dr. Pan has lost friends and relatives to the disease. Her background fuels her high research activity, and she's earned national recognition for her discovery of biomarkers for the cancer. To date, she has published more than 70 articles in scholarly journals and received nearly $2 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and others.
In recent years, Pan and her team have identified a protein, Orai1, that is strongly associated with esophageal tumor progression. The researchers are currently focused on trying to understand how the protein contributes to tumor initiation and development. Pan plans to evaluate the protein as a potential biomarker for esophageal cancer detection and prognosis. She hopes that this will lead to the development of more effective therapeutic interventions for esophageal cancer patients.
"Health care research is a major priority for both the College and UTA," says Paul Fadel, the College's associate dean for research. "As a result, we've declared war on some deadly diseases, including cancer. Zui is an important contributor to the fight."