Cancer-related gene research leads to $2.6M grant 

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Nana I Ohkawa, (808) 564-5911
Dir. of Communications, University of Hawaii Cancer Center
Posted: Dec 17, 2019

Michele Carbone
Michele Carbone
Haining Yang
Haining Yang

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a five-year, $2.6-million grant to University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center researchers to study the role of the BAP1 gene in human cancer development and cell metabolism.

The research team is led by Michele Carbone and Haining Yang.

“This grant adds to our two already funded NIH grants and one grant from the Department of Defense, confirming the leadership of the Hawai‘i team as the top federally-funded research team in the U.S. to conduct research on mesothelioma, a cancer developed frequently in those exposed to asbestos,” said Carbone.  

Carbone discovered the role of genetics in mesothelioma while studying a cancer epidemic in remote villages in Turkey. Carbone, Yang and collaborators continued studying genetics in mesothelioma by conducting molecular genetic studies of U.S. families with high incidence rates of cancer and found a condition they named “BAP1 cancer syndrome.”

Individuals with BAP1 cancer syndrome inherit a BAP1 gene mutation, leading to at least one and often several cancers in their lifetime. The BAP1 mutation greatly increases an individual’s susceptibility to environmental carcinogens such as asbestos, ultraviolet light and ionizing radiations, increasing the risk of the individual developing mesothelioma, melanoma and other cancers.

Carbone recently discovered that BAP1 mutations change cell metabolism. “On one hand, BAP1 mutations cause cancer, and on the other hand, mesotheliomas that develop in carriers of BAP1 mutations are less aggressive, probably because of the altered cell metabolism,” said Carbone. The funds of the most recent grant will be used to investigate the ways in which BAP1 regulates cancer cell metabolism.

Added Carbone, “We hope that by learning how BAP1 mutations slow down the growth of mesothelioma we find a way to make all cancers less aggressive. Our discoveries, confirmed by numerous research teams in more than 700 research and medical articles, have led to preventive and early detection measures that have and continue to save lives.”


About the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center
The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center through its various activities, including scientific research and clinical trials, adds more than $54 million to the Oʻahu economy.  It is one of only 71 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute.  Affiliated with the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the Center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, patient care and community outreach with an emphasis on the unique ethnic, cultural, and environmental characteristics of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.  Learn more at  Like us on Facebook at  Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.

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