Committed to Excellence in Cancer Research, Education and Patient Care
October 2018
Researcher Examines Role of DNA-Damaging Elements in Aging/Age-Related Diseases
Victoria Belancio, Ph.D., and her team hypothesize that a particular subset of DNA-damaging genetic elements play a role in longevity and risk for age-related diseases. (Photo by Ryan Rivet)
Victoria Belancio, PhD , was awarded a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to study the impact of a particular genetic element on longevity and risk for age-related diseases.
"DNA damage accumulates with age and the loss of efficient DNA repair accelerates age-associated deterioration of cell function," said Belancio. "Long interspersed element-1, or L1, is a genetic element that can cause irreversible DNA damage by inserting itself randomly into the genome in a copy-and-paste-like mechanism. The accumulation of this damage may accelerate with age because it may coincide with diminishing cellular ability to repair DNA damage ."
Although L1 elements are expressed in normal human tissues, their impact on life span and susceptibility for age-related health issues is not well understood.
We each have about 500,000 copies of L1 in our genomes, but the bulk of DNA damage is generated by functional L1s, a relatively small subset - believed to be between 70 and 150 - that varies among individuals - and that variation could be significant. "Some individuals contain two- to three-times as many of these L1s than others. We hope through this research to shed light on whether the number of functional L1s per genome impacts life span," said Belancio.
To find out, she and her team will use a unique rat model to mimic variations in the number of functional L1s observed in the human population and then study the effect on overall longevity.
They also plan to evaluate DNA samples from 50- to 60-year-old and long-lived individuals (those who lived greater than 99 years) to determine the average number of functional L1s per genome in each group and whether this number inversely correlates with life span.
"Our ultimate goal is to determine the impact of L1s on longevity and provide rationale for the development of genetic tests that identify individuals who may have an elevated risk of developing age-associated diseases, like cancer," said Belancio.
“Our ultimate goal is to determine the impact of L1s on longevity and provide rationale for the development of genetic tests that identify individuals who may have an elevated risk of developing age-associated diseases, like cancer.”
-Victoria Belancio, PhD
Lynch Syndrome Can Lead to Cancer — Why Physicians Don't Test For It
Jordan Karlitz, MD, of the Tulane School of Medicine faculty, recently published a study that sheds light on the barriers that prevent physicians from consistently testing patients for a common hereditary syndrome that carries a high risk of developing colorectal cancer. (Story by Faith Dawson; photo by Cheryl Gerber)
A new national survey study in Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology assesses barriers to physicians’ experience when testing for a common hereditary syndrome that carries a high risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC).

Lynch Syndrome, a hereditary cancer disorder that may occur in one out of 300 Americans, causes CRC in up to 80 percent of cases. Lead author Jordan Karlitz, MD, director of the Hereditary GI Cancer and Genetics Program and associate clinical professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine, had previously demonstrated in the American Journal of Gastroenterology that, of high-risk, early-onset CRC patients studied in Louisiana, only 23 percent had tumor testing for Lynch Syndrome.

Testing rates should be 100 percent, Karlitz said. The new study strives to better understand why testing is so inconsistent.

The new study suggested that responding physicians, mainly gastroenterologists, had reservations about testing cost, unfamiliarity interpreting results, unavailable genetic counseling or lack of clarity on what type of doctor — gastroenterologists or pathologists, for example — should order testing.

The study also demonstrated that only 46.1 percent of respondents felt screening should take place during a preoperative colonoscopy biopsy, as opposed to during CRC surgery. Preoperative testing can help guide germline genetic testing decisions and the extent of colonic resection surgery.

“We need to push more for ‘reflex’ testing, so that testing automatically gets done,” Karlitz said. “That requires protocols to be set up in medical facilities. The other issue is, just because testing is performed, someone [must be] responsible for actually acting on the results.”

Lynch Syndrome gene mutations can be compared to BRCA, the gene that is associated with increased breast cancer risk. Knowing whether someone has Lynch Syndrome can significantly affect his or her treatment and follow-up care. It’s also critical information for family members, who may carry the same gene.

“We want to maximize genomic education in all specialties,” Karlitz added, noting that Lynch Syndrome is associated with other types of cancers as well. “There’s a greater integration of genomic information in patient care decisions nowadays.”
Fifth NOLA Bluedoo a Record-Setting Success - Raises $193K for Prostate Cancer Research
What a day! The Fifth Annual NOLA Bluedoo surpassed expectations on so many levels! 
Well over 1,000 guests – patients, family members, walkers, runners and friends – helped to raise awareness of prostate cancer and celebrate survivorship in the fun, festival-style atmosphere. Twenty-nine of the best New Orleans restaurants and caterers provided mouthwatering samples of their signature items – an enviable menu thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. Our many entertainment groups not only got the party started, but kept it going strong all afternoon long. Our event staff and volunteers gave generously of their time and their energy not only on event day but for weeks leading up to it, making sure that every detail was handled. And finally, our donors – a record 250 of them! – contributed a combined total of $193,000 to help support our prostate cancer research efforts – surpassing this event’s previous fundraising record by over $40,000!
"On behalf of my research team and most importantly the patients who will benefit from our progress, I thank everyone involved for their contributions to this incredible result," said Oliver Sartor, M.D. , assistant dean for oncology and head of Tulane's Prostate Cancer Research Program. "Your support is absolutely vital to what we strive to do each day, and we couldn’t be prouder or more grateful. Having you in our corner makes us stronger and better. Without you, we could not do what we do!" 
Oliver Sartor, M.D., (far left) accepts a check from the Laissez Boys Social Aid and Leisure Club to support Tulane's Prostate Cancer Research Program.
Hana Safah, M.D., director of Tulane's Stem Cell Transplant Program, was named a "Top Doctor" in hematology/medical oncology in New Orleans Magazine's 2018 "Top Doctors" issue.
New Orleans Magazine’s annual “Top Doctors” issue named 15 Tulane Cancer Center faculty as tops in their respective fields, including five who were among the area’s best hematology/medical oncology specialists:   

Bridgette Collins-Burow, MD, PhD
Marc J. Kahn, MD, MBA
Cindy Anne Leissinger, MD
Hana F. Safah, MD
Oliver Sartor, MD

Other Tulane Cancer Center "Top Docs" include:

Erin E. Boh, MD - Dermatology
Hans Andersson, MD - Medical & Pediatric Genetics/Pediatric Specialist/Pediatric Metabolic Diseases
Vecihi Batuman, MD, FACP, FASN - Nephrology
L. Lee Hamm, MD - Nephrology
Paul L. Friedlander, MD, FACS - Otolaryngology
Tammuella E. Singleton, MD - Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
Samir S. El-Dahr, MD - Pediatric Nephrology
Stacy Drury, MD, PhD - Pediatric Specialist/Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Joseph Lasky, MD - Pulmonary Medicine
Raju Thomas, MD, FACS, FRCS, MHA - Urology

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recently announced that Tulane child psychiatry professor Dr. Stacy Drury will receive the 2018 Norbert and Charlotte Rieger Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement for her research that shows how trauma seeps across generations.

David Franklin, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, was named "First-Year Professor of the Year" by the Tulane Medical Student Association during their recent Owl Club Banquet and Ceremonies. The medical biochemistry course was also voted best first-year course.

Congratulations to Professor Emeritus Yu-Teh Li, PhD, who retired recently after 52 years of service to Tulane. Dr. Li joined Tulane in 1966 as assistant professor of biochemistry and rose to the rank of full professor in 1974. He was honored recently for his research, publishing, teaching and dedication to the Tulane community.
Congratulations to Maureen Lichtveld, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the Department of Global Environmental Health Sciences, for being asked to serve on the Scientific Review Committee for this year's AACR The Science of Cancer Health Disparities Conference. This conference has become a major venue for presenting cutting-edge research in basic, clinical, epidemiological and behavioral science.

Dr. Tammuella Singleton, section chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, was among 20 honored for their commitment to the American Cancer Society's mission at the recent Belles & Beaus Ball . Congratulations, Dr. Singleton!
Madison Smither, a former Tulane Cancer Center student intern and currently a second-year student at the University of Virginia, was one of 10 finalists for the prestigious 2018 Nature Research Innovating Science Award for her work in starting Student to Scientist, a program which supports young girls interested in STEM careers. Smither, a New Orleans native who attended Benjamin Franklin High School, worked in Dr. Victoria Belancio's laboratory before starting college at UVA. Congratulations, Madison!
Calendar of Events
Thursday, November 8, 2018
Friday, December 7, 2018
Saturday, February 16, 2019

Saturday, March 30, 2019
Tulane offers free prostate screenings - a PSA blood test - on the second Tuesday of each month at Tulane Comprehensive Cancer Clinic, 150 S. Liberty St., New Orleans. To make an appointment, call 504-988-6300 or 1-800-588-5800.
Quick Links