Temple Times Online Edition
    DECEMBER 2, 2004
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Eva Surmacz joins Sbarro Institute to study link between obesity, cancer


Researcher Eva Surmacz, who has been investigating the link between obesity and cancer, has joined the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine beginning Nov. 1.

Surmacz, who comes to Temple from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, will be an associate professor in the department of biology and carry out her research through the Sbarro Institute and the Center for Biotechnology in the College of Science and Technology.

“I am certain the move to Temple will be very beneficial for me and my research program,” said Surmacz, who has been collaborating with Sbarro Institute di rector and Center for Biotechnology co-director Antonio Giordano and his associates in the Sbarro Institute for the past two years.

“Antonio Giordano has been very interested in my research program,” she said. “He has also been extremely supportive in developing new research avenue s that will advance close collaboration between our research groups.”

For the past 10 years, Surmacz has been studying the hormonal control of breast cancer development and progression, but her latest research interests focus on the link between obesity and cancer.

“Obesity is a disease of epidemic proportions, with the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control showing that 64 percent of Americans are or overwei ght and 31 percent are obese,” she said.

Surmacz points out that statistics link obesity to about 30 different chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancers such as breast, colorectal and endometrial cancers.

“While the epidemiological data are unquestionable, the molecular mechanisms by which obesity might trigger cancer development are largely unknown,” she sai d. “To tackle this problem, we need to consider the characteristics of fat tissue, which is a remarkably dynamic tissue — a biochemical factory that produces a host of biologically active substances, including hormones and growth factors.

“The chief factor secreted by fat tissue is leptin, a cytokine that controls food intake in the brain. In addition, leptin can act locally and promote cancer cell growth,” she said.
Surmacz’s latest study, which was published in the October issue of Clinical Cancer Research, documented that leptin can interfere with the action of antiestrogens, impeding the efficacy of treatments for breast cancer.

“Reduction of obesity should be one of the key goals in cancer prevention. Even though obesity was classified as a chronic disease in 1985, and many programs have been developed over the past 20 years to combat the problem, the percentage of obese people has actually increased,” said Surmacz, who is being funded through the Sbarro Health Research Organization. “This indicates that the traditional &mdas h; mostly behavioral — approach to reducing weight in order to prevent obesity-related diseases might not be enough. It is quite plausible that future cancer treatment and prevention strategies will include novel anti-obesity therapies.”

“Eva Surmacz is an established investigator who will further enhance the ever-growing research enterprise in the Sbarro Institute, the Center for Biotechnology a nd the College of Science and Technology here at Temple University,” Giordano said.

A native of Poland, Surmacz was introduced to Temple in 1980 as a summer student in the School of Medicine’s department of pathology.

She returned as a visiting research fellow at the School of Medicine from 1984 to 1986 and later earned her doctorate in biochemistry through a joint program between T emple and the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw in 1988.

Surmacz joined the faculty at Jefferson University in 1993 after serving as a senior scientist at the Biotechnology Center in Warsaw and as a postdoctoral fellow at Boston U niversity and Jefferson. As an independent investigator, she has had research funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Preston M. Moretz