Skin cancer research at WSUV gets $100K boost

Assistant professor will accept award in New York

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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A Washington State University Vancouver assistant professor’s cell biology research has earned her a $100,000 grant.

Cynthia Cooper has been awarded the first Cosmopolitan/Melanoma Research Foundation Practice Safe Sun Research Grant. The magazine and foundation established the grant to enable researchers to explore new avenues in melanoma biology and treatments for a cure to skin cancer.

Cooper will accept the award Wednesday at the Practice Safe Sun luncheon at the Hearst Tower in New York City.

“Cosmo and the MRF are specifically interested in melanoma-related research, which is a good match for the work we do in my lab,” Cooper said in a news release from WSUV. “These funds will allow us to purchase some much-needed equipment and reagents, and will cover the cost of attending some scientific conferences.”

In addition, the money will be used to cover the pay and benefits for the people in Cooper’s lab for the next year, she said.

Cooper and her team study cell biology, developmental biology and genetics of pigmentation. Black pigment cells are found throughout human skin, hair follicles and eyes. These cells are essential to providing color to those features as well as in initiating the tanning response, according to the WSUV news release.

The grant will allow Cooper to continue work in her zebrafish genetics lab. Cooper uses zebrafish melanophores (black pigment cells) as a model to ask questions regarding the cell biology and genetics of pigment and skin cell development, according to the release.

Cooper hopes answering questions about the melanophores will help her team understand normal pigment cell development and shed light on mechanisms governing normal skin cell behavior, health and function, according to the news release.

Other honorees at the event include actress Laura Linney, Food Network host Giada De Laurentiis, New York Rangers left wing Sean Avery, dermatologist Jennifer A. Stein, and American Academy of Dermatology activist Cara Biggane.