UCA brings top cancer researcher to campus

Dr. LuZhe Sun, a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and one of the top cancer research scientists in the nation, recently delivered a presidential lecture at UCA as part of a student cancer research symposium.

In a lecture hall filled with UCA students, Sun discussed the importance of cancer research. “As the death rate from heart disease decreases among Americans, the death rates for those with cancer has remained fairly steady,” he said. “The top forms of new cancer cases each year are prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. Each year cancer kills over half a million Americans.”

Sun discussed some of the top advances in cancer treatments in recent years including development of a drug called Gleevec, which treats Leukemia by stopping a cancer-producing enzyme in cells. He also talked about the characteristics that make cancer cells different than normal cells and risk factors for prostate cancer, which is one of his research interests.

“Prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer found in men over 55 in the United States,” he said. Other risk factors are race, as African-Americans are more prone to the disease; smoking; and diet. Sun said research has found that diets high in animal fat increase the risk of prostate cancer, while diets high in fresh fruits and vegetables reduce the risk.

The UCA Student Cancer Research Symposium was the brainchild of Dr. Wen Wang, assistant professor of physical therapy. She said, “It has been my passion, since I was a teen, to find out why people get cancer and why they die from it.”

Wang and Sun were colleagues at UT Health Science Center and continue their collaboration today.
Wang is a physician with a doctorate in physiology and cell biology and teaches basic science courses for UCA physical therapy students. She also supervises several student researchers in studies regarding cancer treatment and prevention.

As a part of a grant Wang received from the university research council, she proposed beginning a research symposium that would bring a nationally recognized cancer researcher to campus to lecture each year.

“Dr. Wang and her colleagues in the sciences here at UCA are certainly doing their part in the search for the cure for cancer,” said Neil Hattlestad, Dean of the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences. “Their involvement of students in their work is particularly important because they are preparing the next generation of cancer researchers.”

The UCA Student Cancer Research Symposium was co-hosted by the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.