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American Cancer Society funds Space Station scientist who studies how good cells turn bad

Every second, your body's cells get instructions on what they are supposed to do from DNA -- the double-helix strand of deoxyribonucleic acid that is the genetic ingredient essential for life.

In healthy cells, proteins manufacture DNA and remove or repair any broken strands. When proteins fail to repair damaged DNA, good cells may turn bad, resulting in a plethora of diseases, including cancer.

Yearly mammograms and daily inspections for lumps make women intimately aware that bad cells form tumors. According to the America Cancer Society, in 2001 almost 200,000 women were diagnosed with new cases of breast cancer -- and some 40,000 women were killed by the disease.

To understand how these basic molecular processes cause breast cancer, the American Cancer Society has awarded a $768,000, four-year grant to Dr. Gloria Borgstahl, a biochemist at the University of Toledo in Ohio. Borgstahl's grant proposal to the American Cancer Society was rated first of 57 submissions to the Genetic Mechanisms in Cancer grant selection committee.

"I am not discovering a cure for cancer," cautioned Borgstahl, "but the American Cancer Society and NASA recognize that understanding basic molecular processes in the body will ultimately provide the knowledge researchers need to get closer to that cure."

Right now, Borgstahl is doing related experiments on the International Space Station. She is in her first year of research funded by a three-year, $830,000-grant awarded by NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research as part of the Macromolecular Biotechnology Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

On April 19, the Space Shuttle Atlantis returned with the first biological crystals that she grew on the Space Station.

The American Cancer Society funding will help Borgstahl study Replication Protein A, know as RPA, and another protein called Rad52. Scientists discovered RPA and learned
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Contact: Steve Roy
steve.roy@msfc.nasa.gov
256-544-0034
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center
2-May-2002


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