Dr. Helena Chang, a UCLA breast cancer surgeon and researcher, has receiveda 1999 Achievement Award from the Chinese-American Engineers and ScientistsAssociation of Southern California (CESASC), the region's oldest Chinese-Americanprofessional organization.
The CESASC honored Chang, director of the Revlon/UCLA Breast Centerat UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, for her "pioneering contributionsto cancer treatment and research," said Charlie Sie, head of the awardcommittee.
Chang is investigating development of a cancer vaccine that targetsa protein called MUC-1. Overproduction of the MUC-1 protein occurs in morethan 90 percent of breast and pancreatic cancers.
"Preliminary findings in the laboratory suggest links between overabundanceof the MUC-1 protein and aggressive forms of pancreatic cancer, as wellas increased likelihood that breast and pancreatic cancers will spreadto other organs. A vaccine that attacks this protein could hold promiseto prevent cancer recurrence and may be used to prevent the disease inpeople at high risk," said Chang, a board director of the NationalBreast Cancer Coalition, head of the Jonsson Cancer Center's Women's CancerResearch Program Area and professor of surgery at the UCLA School of Medicine.
In early laboratory studies, Chang found that the anti-MUC-1 vaccinestimulates the immune system's cancer-fighting abilities, thereby suppressinggrowth of cancers with MUC-1 overproduction.
Chang also observed that the vaccine reduces blood vessel formationin tumors with overabundance of MUC-1. This finding was critical becausea solid tumor cannot grow beyond the size of a pinhead without an independentblood supply to deliver the oxygen and nutrients that cancer requires toadvance and spread.
Co-recipients of this year's annual Achievement Awards included Drs.Yu-Chong Tai, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, andPeter Wu, a vice president at Xerox Corp.
Established in 1962, the CESASC promotes and advocates professionalinterests, aspirations and excellence among Chinese-American engineersand scientists through technical symposia, scholarships, fellowship andcommunity service, Sie said.