University in Riyadh Gives $300,000 to UB to Begin UB-Saudi Research Collaboration

By Lois Baker

Release Date: January 21, 2010

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Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, third left, and UB colleagues, receive a plaque presented by King Abdullah Al Saud, along with Adel Almogren, second right, her Saudi collaborator, in appreciation of their research.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo cancer researcher has received a $300,000 grant from King Saud University (KSU) to continue her work with a Saudi researcher on a vaccine for breast cancer.

Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, PhD, professor of biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences in UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is collaborating with Adel Almogren, PhD, professor in KSU's Department of Pathology and Immunology, who worked with Rittenhouse when he was a graduate student at UB.

That work resulted in groundbreaking research on development of a novel vaccine immunotherapy approach that may be able to decrease the tumor burden in cancer patients by blocking cancer metastasis. The work was described in a paper published in the August 2009 issue of Neoplasia, on which Almogren was a principal author and Rittenhouse was senior author.

The Saudi grant will advance this work, with the goal of perfecting the vaccine in an animal model for ultimate use in humans. Almogren and Rittenhouse-Olson will continue to collaborate and will travel between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia throughout the investigation, which may garner additional support from the Saudis as the work progresses.

"This is a very promising vaccine target," says Rittenhouse-Olson, "because if we are successful, it could be important to breast, colon, bladder and prostate cancer patients."

"King Saud University is in the forefront of interest by governmental institutions in Saudi Arabia to develop a knowledge-based economy, with the goal of lessening its dependence on an oil-based economy," noted Almogren.

"This initiative is a step in that direction. Collaborative research between KSU and UB could open a wide channel of scientific interaction that may not be limited to this special project."

After the Neoplasia paper was published, Rittenhouse-Olson, her husband James Olson, PhD, UB professor of pharmacology and toxicology and social and preventive medicine, and colleagues Susan Morey and Jamie Heimburg-Molinaro, PhD, were invited by KSU to visit Riyadh and to meet the Saudi king, known in his country as The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Rittenhouse-Olson said that it was an exceptional honor for four American scientists to meet with the king. "He is very interested in cancer research and education," she noted. The King presented the visitors with gold medals engraved with images of King Saud University.

"The Saudi people were wonderful," said Rittenhouse-Olson. "We were treated very warmly. They cared about what we thought and they respected our work. It was an amazing experience."

Work on the research project will begin immediately.

While this is the first interaction between UB and King Saud University, Myron A. Thompson III, PhD, UB associate provost and executive director of the graduate school, returned recently from a visit to KSU, and it is anticipated that the visits and the research will result in future educational and scientific interactions between KSU and UB.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.