Sergio Gradilone - The Hormel Institute

Funds will further innovative cancer research at The Hormel Institute

 A Masonic Cancer Center University of Minnesota peer review committee awarded Dr. Sergio Gradilone, Associate Professor in the Cancer Cell Biology and Translational Research lab at The Hormel Institute, a $75,000 grant to fund an innovative cancer research project.

The research project, “Ciliomax: Development of a dual inhibitor for ciliary restoration in tumor cells” will seek to discover new information on fundamental, ciliary-dependent mechanisms controlling the spread of malignant cell to help provide the foundation for novel anti-cancer therapies.

“These pilot grants were supported by the 2018 Chainbreaker biking fundraiser,” said Dr. Doug Yee, Masonic Cancer Center director.

“All grants required a collaboration between faculty members from different Schools and Colleges. We received a large number of applications reviewed by Masonic Cancer Center leadership and we are pleased to support proposals receiving the highest scientific merit scores such as that of Dr. Gradilone.”

Dr. Gradilone’s project researches a hair-like structure protruding from the cellular membrane and is considered the cellular antenna. His group previously described how these antennae are lost in tumor cells. The research team also found the cilium can inhibit the spread of tumor cells and regulates cell migration and invasion, important characteristics tumor cells exploit to grow and metastasize to other parts of the body. With this newly awarded pilot project, in collaboration with Dr. Chen from the Center for Drug Design on the main UMN campus, the research team aims to develop a new drug to rescue the primary cilium in tumors as a potential therapeutic approach.

“This research opens the door to a potential future treatment that limits the progression of this cancer that impacts the liver. Our goal is to stop cancer’s progression so life can be protected,” said Dr. Gradilone.

Cholangiocarcinoma is a bile duct cancer and  lethal form of liver cancer with no effective pharmacologic therapy available. Survival rates vary by location of the tumor, but 5-year survival for early stage bile duct cancer is about 15-30 percent, with 5-year survival for late stage bile duct cancer at about 2 percent. Interestingly, the loss of the cellular antenna has been also now described in other tumors like breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer among others, increasing the impact of the proposed research.