Research Communications

Wu receives $1.25 million NIH grant for skin cancer research 

Ohio University scientists to study how UV light creates damage

September 11, 2008

Shiyong Wu
A team of Ohio University scientists led by Shiyong Wu has received a $1.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a new study on one of the most common types of cancer in the United States.

More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer annually.
Though it’s the most curable type of cancer, 11,200 people die from the disease each year, according to 2008 statistics from the American Cancer Society.

While scientists previously have studied how ultraviolet light (UV) can harm human DNA and trigger skin cancer, the Ohio University team will explore other compounds and pathways in the body that might play a key role in the process. UV activates a complex signaling network in cells. Understanding this network could help scientists identify new targets for future development of therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of UV-related skin cancers and aging, said Wu, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and principal investigator with the university’s Edison Biotechnology Institute. 

UV is a form of radiation that stimulates healthy vitamin D production in the body but also can cause sunburn, killing or damaging skin cells. Cancerous tumors can form if the body doesn’t fully repair or eliminate the injured cells, Wu explained.

In the new study, Wu will collaborate with Ohio University scientists Tadeusz Malinski and Yang Li to examine what role nitric oxide and zinc play in the cell death and repair process. Malinski, chair and Marvin and Ann Dilley White Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Ohio University, previously developed tiny nanosensors that allowed scientists to detect nitric oxide, which plays a critical role in regulating various body functions. Li, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, has studied the role of zinc in triggering strokes.

In his previous research, also funded by the NIH, Wu directed the discovery of a unique mechanism through which UV impacts cellular signaling pathways — which is how cells communicate commands in the body — by inhibiting protein synthesis. Preliminary work suggests that nitric oxide and zinc play roles in this pathway, and the new study will analyze that complex process, Wu explained.

The five-year grant will allow the researchers to purchase supplies, fund researchers and provide training to undergraduate and graduate students.

Wu hopes that the research eventually could bring novel insight into how to design skin tumor prevention or treatment strategies.

By Andrea Gibson

Contacts: Shiyong Wu, (740) 597-1318,; Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166,

For more information, visit: