College of Medicine researchers leading the fight against cancer were honored at Saturday’s UCF-Austin Peay game along with officials from the AutoNation Cure Bowl, which supports breast cancer research at the university.
The “Cancer Assassins” along with Alan Gooch, CEO of the Cure Bowl, and Mack McLaughlin, president of the Orlando Sports Foundation, were introduced on the field at UCF’s Spectrum Stadium, during the second quarter of the game. The Knights won 73-33.
Dr. Griffith Parks, the medical school’s interim associate dean for research and director of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, led the team of researchers, which included faculty, post-doctorate researchers and graduate students who are finding novel new therapies to stop cancer in its tracks and improve the lives of millions of people fighting the disease.
“The event was a great opportunity to put a face to the researchers at the College of Medicine who are working tirelessly to combat this disease,” Dr. Parks said. “I am very encouraged by the progress we have made, but our efforts would not be possible without funding from groups like the AutoNation Cure Bowl. We are grateful for the partnership and excited about the future of UCF cancer research.”
The AutoNation Cure Bowl is the only college bowl game in the country dedicated to raising money for cancer. Proceeds from the game go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Dr. Annette Khaled, head of the College of Medicine’s Cancer Research Division, last year received a $250,000 grant to fund her research on killing metastatic breast cancer cells. Her work is moving forward to preclinical testing and then clinical trials.
“Our mission from the beginning has been to bring teams together to find a cure for cancer and Dr. Khaled and her team are the lead team,” said Gooch. “We appreciate the community’s continued support of the Cure Bowl, every ticket bought benefits Dr. Khaled’s outstanding research.”
The team of researchers honored included Dr. Deborah Altomare who is developing targeted drugs and immunotherapy to block the spread of cancer tumors; Dr. Claudia Andl, who is creating a cancer tumor’s environment in a test tube to better understand how tumor cells spread; Dr. Karl Chai, whose research focuses on HER2+ breast cancer – an especially aggressive form that hits about 1 in 5 breast cancer patients and Dr. Li-Mei Chen, who is identifying the novel mechanisms in lung cancer cells that make them resistant to chemotherapies. Dr. Parks, a virus expert, has developed a virus that can kill cancer cells and make them more susceptible to cancer treatments.
This year’s Cure Bowl kicks off on December 16 at the Camping World Stadium. Tickets are available for purchase at curebowl.com/tickets.  Last year, UCF lost to Arkansas State in the bowl game.