Dr. Keith Syson Chan, assistant professor of urology and of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor College of Medicine, has received a V Foundation for Cancer Research V Scholar Award to study potential new methods of targeting bladder cancer stem cells – the cells that are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.

Also a member of the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Cancer Center at BCM and the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at BCM, Texas Children's Hospital and The Methodist Hospital, Chan was one of 15 researchers named an Albert Wyrick V Scholar, which recognizes bright young scientists who pioneer techniques to make breakthroughs in cancer research.

Research on bladder cancer

Chan's research primarily focuses on bladder cancer, specifically looking at why a certain group of cells called cancer stem cells can drive tumor formation and are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation, refueling the cancer's growth.

"In my lab, we are trying to better understand the properties of these cancer stem cells and what's going on inside the tumor to regulate them. This will essentially help us design strategies to target or desensitize these cancer stem cells." said Chan. "Most importantly, we are looking for stem cell biomarkers that also have prognostic value."

Tumor differentiation status

With the V Foundation V Scholar award, Chan will receive a two-year, $200,000 grant to study tumor differentiation status – the process by which they become more or less specialized – of these cells and how that interplays with oncogenes in the development of cancer.

The V Foundation was established by ESPN and Jimmy Valvano, a championship basketball coach who died from cancer 1993.

Since awarding its first grant in 1994, The V Foundation has funded more than 450 cancer research grants nationwide.