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Rendina Family Foundation Awards $150,000 Grant to Scripps Florida Scientist

JUPITER, FL, September 15, 2009The Rendina Family Foundation has awarded a $150,000 grant to Derek Duckett, an associate scientific director with the Translational Research Institute at Scripps Florida, a division of The Scripps Research Institute.

The two-year award will support the salary and training of a postdoctoral scientist working on potential treatments for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

"I am delighted to receive this grant from the Rendina Foundation," Duckett said. "Our laboratory has recently developed several novel tools to help understand certain critical aspects of this disease, so the help couldn't come at a more perfect time. This funding will enable us to generate some critically important proof-of-principle studies for potential new glioblastoma therapies."

Glioblastoma multiforme, the most malignant form of the disease and the most common, are tumors that form from glial cells, which support and protect neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Treatment options are extremely limited and patients with the disease usually die within a year of diagnosis. The primary reason for this grim prognosis is the complexity of the tumor itself, which is why the work of scientists like Duckett and the support of philanthropies like the Rendina Family Foundation are so important.

"We are pleased to support the work of scientists like Derek and his colleagues at Scripps Florida," said Michael Rendina, the foundation's president. "The death of my father and the recent death of Senator Kennedy from this cancer show just how far we have to go in finding new treatments. Derek's research represents the kind of innovative science that we need in the fight against cancers like glioblastoma, so that one day we can finally put an end to this terrible disease."

Pointing the Way

In his work, Duckett and his colleagues have focused on the Jun-N-terminal kinase or JNK as a potential treatment target for this virulent form of cancer.

The JNK kinases are enzymes involved in a range of cellular signaling pathways, and have been implicated in important processes including metabolic reactions, gene regulation, and cell proliferation—all areas where any significant disruption can lead to cancer, diabetes, or inflammatory disease.

For glioblastoma, the single most important factor in the virtually unstoppable progression of the disease is the ability of infiltrating tumor cells to disperse into distant brain tissue. Recently, in vitro experiments done by Duckett and his colleagues have shown that inhibiting JNK in glioblastoma cells, by either genetic modification or the use of small molecule inhibitors, dramatically inhibits both glioblastoma cell migration and invasion.

Duckett hopes his research program will lead to a better understanding of the role that uncontrolled JNK signaling plays in the migration and invasion of glioblastoma cells, as well as illuminating potential treatment options.

"We have reached the stage in our discovery efforts that our small molecule JNK inhibitors have desirable drug-like properties," Duckett said, "and we plan to study the efficacy of these molecules in glioblastoma tumor models. This generous grant from the Rendina Foundation will help us go one step further in terms of advancing novel treatments—to see how our small molecule inhibitors might enhance the action of other therapies such as chemotherapies and radiation."

Bruce Rendina and his wife Marji established the Rendina Family Foundation in 1997.

Rendina was a recognized leader in the healthcare industry, founding the Rendina Companies, a full-service medical real estate development firm. Since his death in 2006 from brain cancer, his family has led the foundation's work.

About The Rendina Family Foundation

The Rendina Family Foundation strives to enhance the quality of life for families and individuals who have been affected by cancer. They endeavor to accomplish this through the funding of organizations, hospitals and biotechnology companies that excel in researching and developing cures for cancer. In addition, they support efforts to increase the general welfare of the communities in which the foundation is actively involved.

Since its inception, the Rendina Family Foundation has donated more than $4 million to organizations nationwide. The inaugural "Raising the B.A.R." Bruce A. Rendina Memorial Golf Tournament was held in May 2007. This annual tournament commemorates the life and legacy of one of the country's most accomplished real estate developers and philanthropists.  www.rendinafamilyfoundation.com.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations, at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its discoveries in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases, and synthetic vaccine development. Established in its current configuration in 1961, it employs approximately 3,000 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, scientific and other technicians, doctoral degree graduate students, and administrative and technical support personnel. Scripps Research is headquartered in La Jolla, California. It also includes Scripps Florida, whose researchers focus on basic biomedical science, drug discovery, and technology development. Scripps Florida is located in Jupiter, Florida.


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