UK awarded $11.2M to study link between cancer and obesity

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky was awarded an $11.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for research on cancer and obesity.

UK President Eli Capilouto said on Monday the need for research on the subject in Kentucky is real.

“We lead the nation in cancer deaths and we are one of the top 10 in the country for obesity,” said Capilouto. “While scientists have long known of a direct link between obesity and cancer, the need for further research into this field is a necessity for Kentuckians.”

Capilouto said the university is uniquely positioned to conduct cancer research.

U. S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was on hand for the announcement, said the grant was part of the 21st Century Cures Act passed by the previous Congress.

“This was a classic coming together on a bi-partisan basis,” said McConnell. “The President had a particular interest in precision medicine, the Vice-President in cancer, and I had a particular interest in regenerative medicine.”

McConnell called the Cures Act the single most important piece of legislation passed by the last Congress.

Sixth District Congressman Andy Barr explained at a Lexington press conference the grant will be used “to support the University of Kentucky’s groundbreaking efforts in cancer research, and commitment to training early career biomedical research, through mentorships and multi-disciplinary collaborations.”

About 10,000 Kentucky lives are lost to cancer each year in Kentucky, Barr said, with lung cancer killing 50 percent more Kentuckians than the national average. The state also ranks in the nation’s top 10 for mortality rates from breast, colorectal and cervical cancers.

UK Vice-President of Health Affairs Dr. Michael Karpf said the university’s goal is “to make sure that all Kentuckians can be taken care of in Kentucky. There is very little, if anything, that anyone in Kentucky needs to leave the state for, in terms of health care.”

Karpf said the research also has more than 6,000 jobs to Kentucky’s economy.

In 2013, the UK Markey Cancer Center received National Cancer Institute designation, the only one in Kentucky and one of only 69 nationwide. Markey Director Dr. Mark Evers said the center will compete for Comprehensive Cancer Center designation, the pinnacle of cancer care in the U. S.

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