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Fox Chase Cancer Center's Russo Awarded NCI Research Grant Funded By Postage Stamp Sales

PHILADELPHIA (October 21, 2000) -- More than a quarter of a million dollars raised from the sale of a breast cancer postal stamp is being used for breast cancer research at Fox Chase Cancer Center. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded a two-year grant totaling $253,000 to Jose Russo, M.D., F.C.A.P. (Senior Member and Director of the Breast Cancer Research Laboratory). It is one of 31 grants awarded to investigators across the country from the $6.7 million raised from the sale of the 40-cent stamp.

Russo's research focuses on the very early stages of breast cancer. Early in life, environmental carcinogens may be responsible for damaging genes that are responsible for repairing damaged DNA. If these "repair" genes are mutated or lost, the repair does not take place. Then, when the cells replicate, the damaged DNA is passed to the daughter cells. The continual replication of cells with damaged DNA eventually leads to malignant tumors.

Russo's work aims at identifying which genes are involved in that repair. The implications of identifying those genes may allow researchers to identify breast genetic changes that might predict cancer development long before a breast tumor is detected.

Russo's award allows critically fundamental research that is not generally funded by traditional grants.

"There are over a dozen critical areas of breast cancer research that will benefit from this innovative funding and help us answer some scientific questions, as well as set up research opportunities for the next five to 10 years," said Richard D. Klausner, M.D., NCI director. He also noted that the breast cancer stamp has helped to sharpen the focus on breast cancer research, due in large part to the efforts of breast cancer survivors, their families, and friends.

In 1997, Congress enacted legislation that allowed contributions to breast cancer research funding through the purchase of a first-class stamp for 40 cents. Seventy percent of the net proceeds were set aside for breast cancer research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), of which NCI is a part, with the remaining portion going to the Department of Defense.

To distribute the grant money, the NCI created the Insight Awards to Stamp Out Breast Cancer. This grants program is designed to encourage investigators to explore areas of research that are underrepresented including early stage investigations of breast cancer development. Grant applicants were encouraged to submit ideas for projects that could be considered high risk, but with a potential for high reward.

The NIH expects to receive approximately $1 million more in stamp sales before the end of 2000. This installment of funds will be used to award additional grant applications from those previously reviewed. Congress has recently renewed the two-year act that made this program possible and will permit an additional two-year sales period of the stamps.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at

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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