News Release

2 Markey Cancer researchers win V Foundation awards

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Kentucky

2 Markey Cancer Center cancer researchers win V Foundation awards


Markey Cancer Center researchers Ka-wing Fong and Eric Rellinger earned V Foundation awards to support their cancer research.

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Credit: University of Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 27, 2023) — University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center researchers Ka-wing Fong, Ph.D., and Eric Rellinger, M.D., were named V Scholars by the V Foundation for Cancer Research. They will each receive $600,000 to fund their individual cancer research projects over three years.  

Fong, an assistant professor in the UK College of Medicine Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology, research focuses on understanding abnormal gene regulation and cell signaling in prostate cancer. He uses a combination of genomic techniques with bioinformatics analysis, proteomics, molecular biology and pre-clinical mouse models. 

With his V Scholar award, Fong’s research will focus on a protein called TRIM28, which is found at high levels in castration-resistant prostate cancer. Fong's lab has discovered that TRIM28 promotes the growth of cancer cells by activating a specific oncogene. Fong’s project will work to better understand the role of TRIM28 — paving the way for development of new drugs that could help to stop the growth of cancer cells and overcome cancer drug resistance.  

Rellinger, a pediatric surgeon and researcher at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital, is investigating new strategies for treating neuroblastomas. Neuroblastomas most commonly occur in infants and toddlers and account for 15% of all childhood cancer deaths. 

Rellinger’s V Scholar Award will investigate the role of fucose, a type of sugar present in cells, which seems to be important for recruiting certain immune cells called monocytes that could help fight cancer. Rellinger’s study will explore how the level of fucose on neuroblastoma cells affects the recruitment and behavior of monocytes. This research aims to understand how fucose might play a role in the cancer's resistance to treatment and ultimately improve how we treat neuroblastoma. 

The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by ESPN and legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano. Since its formation in 1993, the V Foundation has awarded over $310 million in cancer research grants nationwide. Grants are awarded to innovative researchers with the most cutting-edge ideas on how to improve cancer diagnosis methods, prevent cancer recurrences or defeat cancer. 

UK HealthCare is the hospitals and clinics of the University of Kentucky. But it is so much more. It is more than 10,000 dedicated health care professionals committed to providing advanced subspecialty care for the most critically injured and ill patients from the Commonwealth and beyond. It also is the home of the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center, a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that cares for the tiniest and sickest newborns, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center and Kentucky’s top hospital ranked by U.S. News & World Report.  

As an academic research institution, we are continuously pursuing the next generation of cures, treatments, protocols and policies. Our discoveries have the potential to change what’s medically possible within our lifetimes. Our educators and thought leaders are transforming the health care landscape as our six health professions colleges teach the next generation of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals, spreading the highest standards of care. UK HealthCare is the power of advanced medicine committed to creating a healthier Kentucky, now and for generations to come. 

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