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Three research projects have won 2017 UT Collaborative Research Network Awards in Cancer Research. The monetary awards are designed to promote new lines of team-based research and collaborative partnerships among cancer investigators across the UT System in hopes these projects will ultimately draw external funding.

“This is an exciting collaboration between our principal investigators and institutions,” said Taylor Eighmy, UT Knoxville’s vice chancellor for research and engagement.

Here’s a look at the 2017 UT CORNET award winners with summaries of their projects:

  • “Real-time autobioluminescent imaging of NF-kB and Wnt signaling activities and their synergistic co-activation in cancer”—Steven Ripp, research associate professor and director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at UT Knoxville, and Zhaohui Wu, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at UT Health Science Center. The team will develop light-emitting human cancer cell lines whose maturation toward tumor growth can be monitored in real time within live animal models using sensitive imaging cameras. The research will help scientists learn about cancer progression and screen new cancer-fighting drugs.
  • “Dual Therapeutic Nanoplatform Delivery for Effective Breast Cancer Treatment”—Hwa-Chain Robert Wang, professor of biomedical and diagnostic sciences at the UT Institute of Agriculture, and Murali M. Yallapu, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UTHSC. This project will help develop a treatment for triple negative breast cancer, a form of cancer that is highly aggressive and difficult to treat with traditional medicines. Wang and Yallapu will combine two USDA-approved medicines in a new nanoformulation that will specifically target the tumor cell and result in minimal side effects.
  • “Role of lncRNA-NRON and NFAT in CRC health disparity”—Manish K. Tripathi, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UTHSC, Cuilan (Lani) Gao, assistant professor of mathematics at UT Chattanooga. There has been a divergent trend in mortality rates between African American and Caucasians with colorectal cancer in the past 40 years. The researchers are looking at cellular and molecular mechanisms that dictate how the disease behaves and progresses in underserved populations.

The UT CORNET Award competition was open to researchers performing cancer research at UT Knoxville, UTIA, UTHSC, UT Chattanooga, and ORNL. Each CORNET application had to include a faculty member from at least two participating institutions.

To learn more about the CORNET Awards, please visit


Erin Chapin (865-974-2187,