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IMAGE: Theresa Swift-Scanlan, Ph.D., works in the Biobehavioral Research Lab in the VCU School of Nursing. view more 

Credit: Leah Small, VCU Public Affairs

With the help of a $2.1 million grant, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing researchers will study how a gene that regulates estrogen and neurotransmitter levels could be tied to cognitive decline in patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast and endometrial cancers.

Theresa Swift-Scanlan, Ph.D., the Ellen Fontaine Winston Distinguished Professor and director of Biobehavioral Laboratory Services in the VCU School of Nursing, is the primary investigator on the grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health to investigate the function of the COMT gene. Scanlan, a researcher in the VCU Massey Cancer Center Molecular Genetics program, and her team are also researching how COMT is expressed in the brain and peripheral tissues. Co-investigators include R.K. Elswick Jr., Ph.D., a professor of biostatistics in the VCU School of Nursing, and Charlotte Boettiger, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Studies show that COMT has a role in Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline and affective disorders such as depression due

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