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Wise Laboratory receives $1.6 million grant

The University of Southern Maine’s Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology has received a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to continue its research on how hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) causes lung cancer.

Hexavalent chromium, a widely used industrial metal, is known to cause human lung cancer and has become a major public health concern with widespread occupational and environmental exposure.

What is not known is how hexavalent chromium causes lung cancer.

Tumors from those with lung cancer exhibit what's known as chromosome instability, or changes in the structure and number of chromosomes. The Wise Lab was the first to demonstrate that hexavalent chromium causes chromosome instability. “We now want to focus on determining how hexavalent chromium causes this instability,” said John Wise, principal investigator and USM Professor of Toxicology and Molecular Epidemiology.  “Our hope is that determining the cause could lead to new ways to treat or even prevent lung cancer.”

Wise, a Cape Elizabeth resident, is a graduate of Portland High School where he received the Brown Medal and Frank Preti Award for excellence in academics and athletics. He left a faculty and research position in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University in 2002 to establish the Wise Laboratory on USM’s Portland campus.

The $1.6 million grant, known as a R01 grant, is one of the National Institutes of Health most prestigious, with less than 14 percent receiving funding.  This grant is Wise’s third R01 award at USM, the only three ever earned at USM.