BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD)- Two Pennington Biomedical Research Center faculty are members of the Rutgers-led Team that is shortlisted to compete for up to $25 million in funding through the Cancer Grand Challenges award.

Cancer Grand Challenges is a global funding initiative founded by the Cancer Research UK and the Nation Cancer Institute of the Nation Institutes of Health.

The Pennington Biomedical researchers are Steven Heymsfield, MD, Professor and Director, Metabolism and Body Composition Laboratory, and Justin C. Brown, PhD, Assistant Professor and Director, Cancer Energetics Laboratory. They are part of the Cancer Cachexia Action Network (CANCAN), a team of scientists led by Eileen White, PhD, Deputy Director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Associate Director, Ludwig Princeton Branch, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

Cachexia is a form of “metabolic mutiny” characterized by a dramatic loss of skeletal muscle and often accompanied by substantial weight loss, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some estimates show that cachexia accounts for nearly one-third of cancer deaths.

“Our central hypothesis is that cachexia is driven by the tumor, which activates neurohormonal sickness pathways that lead to anorexia, metabolic dysfunction and tissue wasting,” Dr. White said. “We plan to explore the systemic metabolic imbalance between tumor and host, the role of inflammation in controlling appetite, and the potential of dietary and pharmacological interventions.”

Cachexia touches on nearly every system in the body, and the CANCAN team comprises a diverse range of expertise to reflect this, including cancer, metabolism, neuroendocrinology, immunology and more.

”By getting to the bottom of cancer cachexia, the team hopes to provide the benchmark for care around the world,” Dr. Heymsfield said.

“We are thrilled to be part of a group of investigators bringing new ideas and approaches to this critical unmet need,” Dr. Brown said.

Cancer Grand Challenges drew ideas for solving some of cancer’s toughest questions from nearly 170 teams in more than 60 countries. The 11 teams that made the shortlist will receive seed funding to develop their ideas into full proposals. In early 2022, four of the teams will be selected to receive up to $25 million each in funding to pursue their cancer solutions.