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Fox Chase Cancer Center Scientist Receives One of First Pennsylvania Grants From Tax-Refund Check-Off

PHILADELPHIA (May 18, 1999) -- Dr. Kent W. Hunter of Fort Washington, Pa., a geneticist in Fox Chase Cancer Center's division of population science, is among the first to receive a cancer research grant funded by a voluntary check-off on state income tax forms. More than 40,000 Pennsylvanians used the check-off last year to designate their state tax refund for breast and cervical cancer research.

Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Ridge and First Lady Michele Ridge announced the grants at Fox Chase Cancer Center in April. The total of $285,000 was divided among 11 researchers in institutions from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

Hunter's $23,000 one-year grant will aid his genetic studies of why some women are more susceptible to breast cancer and why some breast cancers grow more aggressively than others. Greater understanding of the molecular basis for tumor growth may help in the design of new anticancer therapies and earlier intervention.

Hunter seeks to identify alterations in genes that predispose some women in some families to breast cancer. Many cases of hereditary susceptibility to breast cancer involve defects in two genes, known as breast cancer genes 1 and 2 (BRCA1 and BRCA2). Breast cancer due to an inherited risk represents only about 5 to 10 percent of all cases, but these two genes are estimated to be involved in about 70 percent of those.

However, some women who inherit one of these genes develop the disease at an early age while others remain unaffected until reaching their 70s.

"This difference suggests that additional factors must influence the development of the disease," Hunter explained.

He is also working to find genetic factors that cause some breast cancers to spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body. Knowledge about genes that influence this process will help identify patients who need close monitoring for recurrence of the cancer. Understanding how such genes work may also reveal new approaches to treat women with advanced or potentially aggressive breast cancers more effectively than is possible with current methods.

Born in Arlington, Va., Hunter received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry summa cum laude at Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., where he was elected to the Golden Key National Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa. He completed his doctoral degree in biology in 1991 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

After a postdoctoral fellowship in genetics at M.I.T., where he studied the physical and genetic maps of the mouse genome, Hunter joined Fox Chase Cancer Center in 1996 as an associate member of the population science division.

Hunter currently holds grants from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. He is a member of the American Association for Advancement of Science, the Human Genome Organization, and the International Mammalian Genome Society.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 35 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers. Its activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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