E-Progress Report of The Hormel Institute



Dear Friends-

It is with great appreciation we send you our latest cancer research news from The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota.  Each day we are dedicated to furthering our research for discoveries to reduce the impact of cancer on lives.  Please know we are grateful for your support – your contributions, your collaborations and your friendship.  Truly together we are working for a world where the threat of cancer is minimized.  Know how much we appreciate you, and from all of us at The Hormel Institute, we wish you a healthy, happy Thanksgiving.

In friendship,

Zigang Dong, M.D., Dr. P.H.
Executive Director


Research to further understand specialized cells in quest to control cancer published

Dr. Ki Beom Bae from Dr. Zigang Dong’s Cellular and Molecular Biology lab of The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, published discoveries in a leading cancer research journal, Stem Cells Reports. Dr. Bae and colleagues studied a protein called OCT4, which is essential for keeping stem cells happy.  They found that OCT4 binds to another protein called c-Jun N terminal kinase (JNK).  This OCT4-JNK interaction was found to affect the stability of the OCT4 protein. This is important because it could in turn affect the development and maintenance of stem cells.

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Colon cancer research published in high impact National Academy of Sciences journal

Dr. Ke Yao from Dr. Zigang Dong’s Cellular and Molecular Biology lab of The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota published colon cancer research this week in the top scientific journal  PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Yao and colleagues identified key molecules that can help prevent colon cancer from growing and spreading to other parts of the body.  A person’s healthy immune system is necessary for fighting off cancer and this study found the interaction between two proteins ( RSK2 and T-bet) affected the levels of a critical immune signaling molecule called interferon-gamma.

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New Section Leader awarded ovarian cancer research grant

One of The Hormel Institute’s new section leaders, Dr. Ilana Chefetz, was awarded a coveted junior faculty grant from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (OCRFA).  The Liz Tilberis Award honors the OCRFA’s late president and provides a three-year grant of $150,000 per year.  It is awarded to junior faculty with a strong commitment to ovarian cancer research.

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New discovery in lung cancer at The Hormel Institute

The results of a study led by Dr. Shujun Liu, head of the Cancer Epigenetics and Experimental Therapeutics section at The Hormel Institute, were published in the high impact journal Oncogene. Dr. Liu’s study shows that DNA methyltransferases (DNMT) and receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) create a vicious circle that acts as a key regulator of cell fate decision in lung cancer development, and represents an attractive target for designing innovative therapeutic strategies. The article, “A regulatory circuit composed of DNA methyltransferases and receptor tyrosine kinases controls lung cancer cell aggressiveness” was a collaboration with other researchers from Mayo Clinic and University of Louisville, including Drs. Fei Yan, Na Shen, Jiuxia Pang, Na Zhao, Bo Deng, Bing Li, Yanan Yang, Ping Yang and Julian R. Molina.

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Leukemia breakthrough provides a new therapeutic strategy

The results of a study led by Dr. Shujun Liu, head of the Cancer Epigenetics and Experimental Therapeutics section at The Hormel Institute, were published in the journal Leukemia. Dr. Liu’s study shows that fatty acid-binding protein 4 (FABP4) and DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) work together in a loop that is critical for regulating the aggressiveness of leukemia cells. Pharmaceutical drugs can disrupt this loop and impair leukemia growth by resetting the aberrant epigenetics in leukemia cells. The article, “A vicious loop of fatty acid-binding protein 4 and DNA methyltransferase 1 promotes acute myeloid leukemia and acts as a therapeutic target” was a collaboration with other researchers from University of Louisville and Mayo Clinic, including Drs. Fei Yan, Na Shen, Jiuxia Pang, Na Zhao, Youwen Zhang, Ann M Bode, Aref Al-Kali, Mark R Litzow and Bing Li.

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The Hormel Institute leads international cancer conference

The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota recently cohosted the 8th China-U.S. Forum on Frontiers of Cancer Research and The 5th Zhengzhou International Cancer Forum on September 14-15, 2017 in Zhengzhou, Henan, China. The quest to accelerate answers to cancer was the mission of the conference that is held internationally (last year in Austin) and this year drew hundreds of researchers from around the world. Gary Ray, chair of The Hormel Foundation, was keynote speaker and Dr. Steffen Mueller, whose presentation was made possible by Rick Schwarck of Absolute Energy and the U.S. Grains Council, spoke on biofuels and their effect on air and water quality. While in China, members of The Hormel Institute met with U.S. Ambassador to China, The Honorable Terry Branstad.

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npj Precision Oncology article mentioned in Washington Post article

Research from The Hormel Institute’s Nature partner journal Precision Oncology was mentioned in a Washington Post article on childhood cancer. Read the article here:

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Welcome Vice President Al Levine!

The faculty and staff of The Hormel Institute welcome Dr. Al Levine as University of Minnesota’s Vice President for Research. We send our deepest congratulations on his appointment from interim to full Vice President of Research. We are delighted to have his continued leadership on The Hormel Institute’s Advisory Board and look forward to working with him far into the future.

American Cancer Society visits The Hormel Institute

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, and a group from American Cancer Society offices in Minnesota and Atlanta visited The Hormel Institute earlier this month to discuss synergies and how our two organizations can work together toward our shared goal of a world without cancer. Mr. Roland Gentzler, Treasurer of The Hormel Foundation, met with ACS, Hormel Foods and HI leaders to further collaborative goals.

MNCCTN meetings ongoing

The Hormel Institute is participating on meetings for the development of the Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MNCCTN). This is a cooperative effort led by the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota focused on taking cancer discoveries made at the Masonic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, and The Hormel Institute and bringing them to patients throughout the state of Minnesota through local medical centers and providers.

npj Precision Oncology to be included in PubMed

The Hormel Institute’s Nature partner journal Precision Oncology has now published enough journal articles to be included in PubMed, an important first step to obtain an Impact Factor. An impact factor reflects the average number of citations to a journal’s recent articles and is often used as a stand in to measure the importance of an academic journal. According to the Managing Editor at Nature Research, “npj Precision Oncology has been exceptionally successful.”
 Visit the journal online.

Institute doctoral student advances to highest levels

A panel of advisors from throughout the state met in August in the Ray Live Learning Center at The Hormel Institute to evaluate the dissertation defense presented by Mr. Seung Ho Shin, a 6th year Ph.D. student enrolled in the University of Minnesota (Rochester) Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Program. Mr. Shin’s dissertation is entitled “Drug Development and novel combination strategies with phytochemicals for precision medicine in cancer”. Shin’s thesis focused on research to enhance the concept of precision medicine, which is defined as matching the most accurate and effective treatment to each individual with the potential to manage the specific characteristics of the disease.

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The Hormel Foundation welcomes new Treasurer

We are happy to introduce Roland G. Gentzler as the new treasurer of The Hormel Foundation.  Rollie took over the position after the retirement of Jerry Anfinson last summer and we sincerely thank Jerry for his years of service and support. We welcomed The Hormel Foundation to the Institute last month for a board meeting.


Eagles Cancer Telethon Board visits Institute

Board members from The 5th District Eagles Cancer Telethon visited The Hormel Institute in October to tour the new expansion and learn about innovative technologies used in the institute’s cancer research. Additional guests of the board included Lyle Area Cancer members and other major donors to the telethon. Since 1999, the Eagles Cancer Telethon has donated $2.718 million to The Hormel Institute to fund cutting-edge cancer research.


Karl’s Tourney total reaches over $500,000

The Karl R. Potach Foundation donated $71,000 to The Hormel Institute this year for cancer research. The money is raised from the annual Karl Potach Memorial Golf Tournament and Silent Auction, which occurs every August. This donation brings the Karl Potach Foundation’s total gifts to $504,800. Their gifts to The Hormel Institute fund Wilms Tumor research and our scientists have had major success furthering answers.


Deryl Arnold Golf Tournament raises $4,607 for cancer research

The Deryl Arnold Memorial Golf Tournament raised $4,607 at this year’s event in support of cancer research for The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota. The tournament, run by Hormel Foods Austin Plant Enrichment Committee and members of the Arnold family, has raised over $29,500 for cancer research at The Hormel Institute since 2009. Deryl Arnold, a former Hormel Foods’ plant manager, started the golf tournament as an annual celebration for plant employees. He later died from pancreatic cancer and Hormel Foods and the family continue the tournament in his memory in support of cancer research. Mrs. Arnold and Deryl’s son, Bill, presented the donation to The Hormel Institute, UMN.

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Paint the Town Pink – Pink at the Pump

A new Paint the Town Pink fundraiser took place in October – Pink at the Pump was organized by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and benefitted both The Hormel Institute and National Breast Cancer Foundation. Participating retailers throughout Iowa donated 3-cents of every gallon of E15 sold during October to help fight breast cancer. Our thanks to Lucy Norton as well as Rick Schwarck and Absolute Energy for partnering with The Hormel Institute to help make this fundraiser a reality. Mr. Schwarck has spearheaded multiple collaborations within the ethanol industry to win support for The Hormel Institute’s cancer prevention research, with the common goal of reducing cancer.

Start organizing your Paint the Town Pink event now!

The Paint the Town Pink steering committee has started its monthly meetings in preparation for the upcoming Paint the Town Pink season. The 2018 dates are set for January 27 – February 11, but events happen year round. You can see planned events on our website www.hi.umn.edu/pttp. Please contact Kathi Finley, gopttp@gmail.com, if you have ideas for PTTP fundraisers.


Students shadow CORE manager Todd Schuster

Three students from Austin High School spent morning in October shadowing Todd Schuster, head of the CORE lab (shared instruments/technologies). Students were able to see what a “day in the life” looks like for one of our Institute employees. The job-shadowing opportunity is a through Austin Aspires, a Vision 20/20 project.


Human Cancer Ribbon with Hormel Foods

Faculty and staff from The Hormel Institute joined in the Human Cancer Ribbon display at Hormel Foods corporate offices last month. The display aimed to raise awareness and share support during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in support of Hormel Foods’ new line of nutrition products for those undergoing cancer treatment (Vital Cuisine). Read more about the event here:

Dr. Rebecca Morris speaks to third graders

In a continuing effort to ignite interest in science and science education among young people, Banfield Elementary School third graders learned about the scientific methods from an actual scientist last month when Dr. Rebecca Morris, leader of the Stem Cells & Cancer research section at The Hormel Institute, visited their school. Students were shown an experiment and were able to ask Dr. Morris questions about her career, her research, and science.


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For more information about The Hormel Institute, please contact us at: info@hi.umn.edu
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