UHV researcher gets grant to continue food fight with cancer

Siva Somasundaram

A researcher at the University of Houston-Victoria recently was awarded a $25,000 grant to continue his research on how a chemical found in citrus fruit can slow down the growth of cancer.

Siva Somasundaram, an associate professor of biology, will use the money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to analyze what parts of the human genome are affected by limonin, a compound found in citrus fruits.

“This next phase of the research may show other applications beyond fighting cancer,” he said. The gene mapping may give birth to other lines of research at UHV, he said.

Somasundaram began the research project in 2006 and already has conducted cell culture and animal trials using limonin to slow the growth of breast cancer cells.

Limonin helps retard the growth of cancer cells for a time, he said. Unfortunately, cancer cells can eventually become resistant to these effects, just as they can become resistant to chemotherapy.

In October of 2008, Somasundaram received $10,000 to study why this happens and to conduct further testing in animal models. The research was conducted at facilities at the University of Houston System at Sugar Land and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The grant is a small piece of a $1.3 million grant awarded to the Vegetable and Food Improvement Center based at Texas A&M University-College Station, where Somasundaram serves as a research scientist and nutrition team leader.

“It is encouraging to see that the USDA has again renewed Dr. Somasundarum''s grant,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “I’m very pleased with his efforts to attain federal funding for his research and believe that increasing levels of research support will be coming his way soon.”

Federally funded research efforts will continue to expand in the School of Arts & Sciences for the near future, Di Leo predicted.

“This fall, I challenged our faculty to seek out more federally funded grants,” Di Leo said.“Dr. Somasundaram''s grant is definitely a step in the right direction.Hopefully, we''ll have more good news to report in the near future.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Thomas Doyle 361-570-4342