Created: 01/08/2014 5:46 PM KAALtv.com
By: Dan Conradt
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's earned a reputation as one of the world's foremost cancer research institutes.
And from the five research sections it had in 2006 when it began its last expansion project, the Hormel Institute in Austin has now added its 13th section.
"My primary focus of research is the liver micro-tumor environment," said new Institute researcher Dr. Ningling Kang.
One day, her research could save a lot of lives.
“So how the liver micro-environment helps tumors grow in the liver."
It's important research because the liver is a preferential invasion site for various cancers, such as breast and lung cancers, gastrointestinal cancers and melanoma.
"Secondary liver tumors generate by spreading the tumor from other organs to the liver. It's the primary cause for many deaths for patients," Dr. Ningling Kang explained.
So what makes the liver such a ripe environment for tumor growth? you might think of it as a garden.
"Our hypothesis is tumor cells are seeds. The liver micro-environment acts as the soil to provide the essential nutrients and the support for the tumor growth," Dr. Kang told us.
Her work is being funded by a 5-year, $1.6 million dollar grant from the National Cancer Institute, and 4 scientists will work in her section.
"When the leadership at the Hormel Institute looks to add sections, it looks for cutting-edge cancer research like hers, and research that will support enhanced work currently being done here," said the Institute’s Tim Ruzek.
"If we can understand or identify how the interaction happens, then we would have a mechanism to prevent the interaction and the tumor implantation and the growth in the liver," Dr. Ningling Kang explained.
In May, the Hormel Institute will break ground on an expansion project that will double its size.
Work on the expansion should be completed in 2015.