Obesity and Cancer Program
The prevalence of obesity has markedly increased over the past two centuries. In the United States, approximately 66% of adults are overweight and 31% are obese, while globally overweight population has exceeded 1 billion. Epidemiological data clearly demonstrate that obesity is associated with increased risk of numerous diseases, including some forms of cancer. While the impact of excess body weight on the development of cardiac disease and diabetes has been well documented, the link between obesity and carcinogenesis is just being recognized. How exactly excess body fat can promote neoplastic transformation is not clear. We aim to understand the mechanisms by which obesity increases the risk of cancer development and progression and interferes with the efficacy of conventional and targeted treatments. The development of novel biological compounds for pharmaceutical targeting of essential obesity-associated pathways constitutes the main avenue of current research. Our peptide-based leptin receptor antagonists and adiponectin receptor agonist have shown excellent efficacy in pre-clinical assays.
Dr. Surmacz’s research focuses on pathogenesis of obesity and diabetes, molecular links between these diseases and cancer development, and development of pharmacological compounds to target obesity-related cancerogenic pathways. Her programs have been supported by the NIH, Department of Defense, Pennsylvania Department of Health, pharmaceutical industry, and private organizations, including SHRO. She is the author of over 85 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, serves as a member of editorial boards of 4 professional journals, and is a frequent grant reviewer for federal and international funding agencies. Dr. Surmacz trained 30 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. In addition, Dr. Surmacz co-founded and served as VP Research in 2 start-up biotech companies.