University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center researchers Ka-wing Fong, PhD, and Eric Rellinger, MD, 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.