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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC Faculty Member Awarded $228K to Study Cholesterol and Prostate Cancer

Dr. Emma Allott, research assistant professor of nutrition at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has received the Professor John Fitzpatrick Research Fellowship, a three-year grant award of more than $228,000, to investigate the role of cholesterol in prostate cancer.

[Photo: Photo: Dr. Emma Allott]

The award, part of a unique transatlantic cancer research collaboration, was established by the Irish Cancer Society, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to fund an Irish scientist or clinician to undertake prostate cancer research.

Dr. Allott, a native of Dublin, will investigate whether high cholesterol levels impact survival rates in men with advanced prostate cancer, specifically whether reducing cholesterol levels has potential to improve survival rates when combined with hormonal treatment.

Current treatment options for men with advanced prostate cancer involve blocking hormones called androgens, which drive the development of the cancer. Cholesterol is a building block for these hormones, however, and there is now evidence to suggest that high cholesterol levels may help the tumor override this hormone-blocking action, allowing the cancer to grow and progress.

Dr. Allott aims to identify tumor biomarkers linked with high cholesterol levels that may indicate how well prostate cancer patients will respond to hormonal treatment. The study also will investigate the potential to improve prostate cancer survival rates by reducing cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, or through cholesterol-lowering medication.

In collaboration with researchers from Dana-Farber and Harvard T.H. Chan, Dr. Allott will analyze the lifestyles and tumor characteristics of more than 1,000 Irish and American men with prostate cancer.

“Dr. Allott continues to distinguish herself as an emerging leader in the field of prostate cancer research,” said Dr. Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and chair of the Gillings School’s nutrition department. “The Professor John Fitzpatrick Research Fellowship will enable her to address an important need as she develops innovative methods to determine whether a reduction in cholesterol levels will improve survival rates for men with prostate cancer. The international nature of this award situates Dr. Allott and the Department of Nutrition at the forefront of global efforts to improve health outcomes for men with prostate cancer.”

“I am excited and honored to be selected as the first Professor John Fitzpatrick Research Fellow,” Dr. Allott said. “The award provides a unique and valuable opportunity for me to work as part of a team of internationally-renowned prostate cancer researchers and clinicians to reduce the burden of prostate cancer in Ireland and worldwide.”

The fellowship, which is supported by Sanofi and Janssen, is named in memory of the late Professor John Fitzpatrick, former head of research at the Irish Cancer Society, who made significant contributions to global research, particularly in the field of prostate cancer.

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