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A Wistar Institute assistant professor received a $175,000 grant earlier this month for his research in cancer and genetic engineering. The W. W. Smith Charitable Trust awarded Assistant Professor Frank Rauscher a two-year grant for his proposal entitled "Biochemical Analysis of the Wilms' Tumor Gene Product." Rauscher will research the specific gene that may cause a type of kidney cancer in young children. Wilms' Tumor is a genetic cancer that causes a very common pediatric tumor in the kidneys. Children afflicted by the disease lack part of one chromosome. Scientists have hypothesized that the defective chromosomes lack a gene that supresses the cancer from forming. According to Rauscher, researchers believe they have identified the supressor gene. His research will examine how the gene supresses the cancer and why some children lose the gene. "The gene is akin to a quarterback in the nucleus that tells the other players what to do," said Rauscher. "Once you loose it, there is chaos." Wilms' Tumor occurs in one in every 10,000 births and is treated through surgery. Currently, the cancerous kidney must be removed to rid the children of the cancer, but researchers hope to eventually find a cure. Rauscher said that once the function of the gene is found, genetic engineering can be used to repair the defect. In addition, recognizing the defect or loss of the gene in children can be used as a diagnostic tool. Another genetic childhood cancer related to Wilms' Tumor is retinoblastoma, a cancer which forms a tumor in the eye. Researchers are also in the process of locating a similar gene which supresses lung cancer. Coming to the Wistar Institute just last year, Rauscher said he was excited about the research opportunities he has encountered. "I am very excited," said Rauscher. "I came in May, and I already have money to get my research going." The W. W. Smith Charitable Trust is the third largest private foundation in Philadelphia and awards $5 million annually for public service programs in the Delaware Valley Region.

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