Turchi receives grant from Mary Kay Foundation to advance cancer research

Jan. 10, 2013

An IU School of Medicine researcher is one of 13 respected doctors and medical scientists nationwide to receive a total of $1.3 million in grant support from the Mary Kay Foundation to reduce cancers affecting women.

John Turchi, Ph.D., IU School of Medicine professor of medicine and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, will receive $100,000 to support a project involving the development of novel agents to treat ovarian cancer with a focus on agents that can be used to treat recurrent cancers.

John Turchi

John Turchi

“I am honored to be selected by the review committee,” Dr. Turchi said. “The support provided by the Mary Kay Foundation enables us to pursue a crucial series of experiments that are critical toward developing novel anti-cancer therapies.”  

Dr. Turchi’s laboratory studies the ability of tumor cells to repair following treatment with Cisplatin, the first in a class of chemotherapy drugs derived from the heavy metal platinum. By turning off that repair mechanism, Turchi aims to prove these tumors will die. He has discovered three molecules -- potential drugs -- that show promise in the laboratory. Two have received provisional patents, and he’s working to move them along to patient trials.

Developed in the 19th century, Cisplatin wasn’t approved as a standard treatment for cancer until the 1970s, when its potential was confirmed by Lawrence Einhorn, M.D., Distinguished Professor and Lance Armstrong Foundation Professor of Oncology. Today, Cisplatin and subsequent generations of platinum drugs are used either alone or in combination to treat a host of cancers. A biochemist who has studied platinum-based drugs for 15 years, Dr. Turchi left the Wright State University School of Medicine in 2004 to further research in this area under Einhorn at the IU School of Medicine.

The Mary Kay Foundation research review committee, composed of prominent doctors who volunteer their time to help the foundation select the best recipients across the nation, selected Dr. Turchi as a candidate for their annual award based on his reputation in the field. After reviewing these candidate recommendations, the board of directors selects the grant recipients. 

“We are committed to eliminating cancers affecting women by supporting top medical scientists who are searching for a cure for breast, uterine, cervical and ovarian cancers,” said Jennifer Cook, executive director of the Mary Kay Museum and member of the board of directors for the Mary Kay Foundation. “Providing options to women who are suffering from cancer and saving their lives brings us one step closer to eliminating cancer.  

“The best part of my job is learning about the women we have helped through cancer, like Independent Beauty Consultant Betty Savoretti and her daughter, Alisa, who are both cancer survivors,” she added.

For every three women, one will develop some type of cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.   

Since 1996, the Mary Kay Foundation has donated more than $18 million to support researching new cancer treatments and new findings on hereditary breast cancer.

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