Volume 12, Issue 31 ~ July 29-August 4, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

Party by the Bay to Support Cancer Research
Celebrate life at Rod ’n’ Reel’s 23rd annual gala

“I have to convince the world,” says David Weber, American Cancer Society researcher at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. “This is a very new thought for science and for the cancer world.”

Weber is speaking of research progress he’s made in the past year leading, he hopes, to patient-specific cancer drugs.

“We need help with money, and we need help with convincing drug companies and investors that this is a worthy problem to solve,” the cancer researcher said.

Enter Rod ’n’ Reel’s Annual Celebration of Life Cancer Gala on August 5. This is the Calvert County entertainment complex’s 23rd consecutive year of raising cancer research funds for the American Cancer Society. The Society has, since its founding in 1946, invested more than $2.5 billion into researchers like Weber who are on the edge of new and promising discoveries. In Maryland alone, the Cancer Society sponsors 24 grants totaling more than $12 million to support researchers unraveling the mysteries of cancer at such local bastions of science as Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and the Carnegie Institutions of Washington.

To fight cancer, Weber received his third Cancer Society grant on July 1, in the amount of $450,000, to continue cracking the biological code of the relationship between two proteins — s100b and p53 — thought to play a pivotal role in the development of lung, bladder, kidney, cervix, breast and mouth cancers. Since Bay Weekly interviewed Weber last year [Dock of the Bay Vol. XI, No. 31], he has learned that his research is right on target.

Last year, Weber demonstrated that by blocking the binding site between p53 and s100b, p53 would then be free to check overambitious cell growth.

This year, he’s produced the same results, but from a different direction. “We’ve circled the wagon,” Weber says, meaning he has gone from blocking s100b to actually halting its production in primary malignant melanoma cancer cells by inserting short-inhibitory RNA into the cells.

“SiRNA stops the production of protein inside a cell. Once you get it in there, it stops the production of s100b. We then found that p53 did indeed get restored. We have a proof of principle in place now. That’s the therapeutic approach we want to take.”

In short, Weber has confirmed — from a different direction — that controlling s100b allows p53 more room to suppress tumors. He is one step closer to seeing his research lead to an eventual FDA-approved therapy for cancer patients.

Since last year, Johns Hopkins researcher Richard Roden has also reached a critical point in his studies of human papillomavirus — HPV — which is a necessary cause of cervical cancer. His $774,000 Cancer Society grant began in July 2002, but he has been working for eight years on unearthing the biology of a single vaccine that would neutralize all 22 types of the virus.

Roden established last year that the virus’ L2 protein — a minor component of the virus’ coat — was required for infection. This is why, he says, “L2 is a good candidate for making a prophylactic vaccine that protects against all types of the HPV virus that cause cervical cancer.

“If you vaccinate against L2 with one type, you can get an antibody response that neutralizes all other types that cause cancer.” Prevent the virus, prevent the cancer.

A year later, Roden has evidence that his idea is just as — if not more — promising than ever. Roden made the leap after he obtained serum from healthy patients who had been vaccinated with L2. “They made antibodies that neutralized representatives of the different types of HPV,” he said.

Like Weber, Roden has established his proof of principle. Roden admits a clinical trial is a long way off. So far, he has shown exactly what he set out to prove eight years ago. He will continue to use his Cancer Society grant to outsmart HPV and the cervical cancer to which it leads.

Many other Maryland researchers use their Cancer Society grants to discover new ways to prevent and outsmart the disease. From studying how cells divide, to how biological mechanisms in bacteria and fruit flies serve as templates for studying those same mechanisms in humans, to studying the effects that the news media has on attitudes toward tobacco use, the research to prevent and combat cancer is nearly as ubiquitous as the disease itself.

Rod ’n’ Reel’s Cancer Gala has been a key player in helping the Cancer Society arm this small army of Maryland researchers in the fight.

This year’s Cancer Gala is poised to offer more help than ever before. Gerald Donovan — who with his brother Fred is creator of the Cancer Gala and Rod ’n’ Reel owner — expects this year’s Gala to surpass all its predecessors with total earnings of $275,000.

“This year will take us over the $2 million mark,” Donovan says, of the cumulative, 23-year earnings of the Gala. “It has been a record-breaker year in sponsorship. A lot of people are moving up to more money. We are fortunate to live in an area where people are so generous.”

This year the tradition continues: Calvert Countians indulge their appetites for shrimp, oysters, lobster, barbecue, filet mignon and decadent desserts, while the Cancer Gala helps the American Cancer Society indulge scientists’ appetites across the nation for stepping up the fight against cancer.

—Lauren Silver

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Laying Seige to Annapolis
For drivers, construction has made an impenetrable fortress

Driving into historic Annapolis these days is an exercise in patience. You’ll either handle the delays, the construction and quixotic-like quest for a parking spot with grace and dignity — or you’ll aim your car for the nearest bridge and drive straight off it.

That is, if you can fight your way through construction to that bridge.

With work on the Weems Creek Bridge at Rowe Boulevard — the final project on the current agenda — not slated to finish until the summer of 2006, congestion is here to stay.

Downtown resembles a castle surrounded by a moat of construction. The worst bottlenecks snarl traffic along West Street, where an infrastructure makeover is modernizing water mains and electric lines at the same time as surface-level street work. That snarl is worse because traffic backs up into Church Circle from Franklin Street, where Banneker-Douglass Museum is getting a traffic-stopping addition.

Once through the labyrinth of traffic jams and detours, residents and shoppers must compete with tourists, merchants and workers for the 983 garage parking spots and 282 metered spots in historic Annapolis.

To get a monthly parking permit for one of the original spots in Hillman Garage off Main Street, Cynthia McBride of McBride’s Gallery on Main Street camped out in a sleeping bag.

Of the remaining 982 garage spots, about 100 are for city employees. State employees have another 300 spots at Gott’s Garage, according to Anne Hubbard at the Maryland Department of General Services. Still more spots are leased to state agencies by the county.

According to the city of Annapolis, another 250 to 300 spots will open when the Knighton Garage on Colonial Street is finished this October.

All the inconveniences are for a good cause, says McBride, who as president of the Annapolis Chamber of Commerce in 1995-’96 made parking recommendations to the city. Economy, safety and attitude are the reasons she argued for Annapolis to maintain and upgrade not only parking and transportation but the underground infrastructure — water, sewer, electric, gas and such.

“It’s worth the sacrifices,” she says. “The work is making Annapolis beautiful, and it will draw visitors in and it makes us proud of our hometown.”

Still, road and infrastructure work won’t transform Annapolis from driving hell to driving heaven. More cars arrive faster than parking spots can be built.

For drivers without parking permits or the time to drive in circles looking for the magic spot, the city recommends using the park-and-ride shuttle from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

“The first, and best, advice,” says Jan Hardesty spokeswoman for Annapolis, “is to use the stadium shuttle. It is free, it is dependable, and it is convenient for the visitor to get around and get out of town without sitting in traffic on congested streets.”

McBride calls the shuttle “a great idea for the visitor,” but it is not a solution she thinks will work well with locals.

Truck driver Dave Sosebee, who has been delivering produce to City Dock retaurants for two years, also wishes more people would use the shuttle.

“Getting into Annapolis is not that bad in the morning,” he says. “But you get here in the afternoon, and it takes you an extra half hour circiling around just to find a spot.”

The shuttle runs weekdays from 5:30am to 8pm and weekends 9am to 6pm. It makes four stops throughout downtown every five minutes during rush hour and every 10 or 15 minutes at other times.

But the shuttle isn’t for everybody. The wait can be as long as 30 minutes. Nor is Navy-Marine Corps Memorial a central location for every potential rider.

No where do the limitations of shuttle service shine more than at the mayor’s office. Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer, who lives in Eastport, has her own spot in the Hillman Garage because driving to the stadium to turn around and ride back is “not a time or energy efficient consideration,” says Hardesty.

A sentiment echoed by McBride.

“For those of us downtown who have appointments or meetings outside the area,” she says, “we need the garages because we are in and out all day.”

For shuttle schedules, parking rates and traffic updates call 410-263-7964 or visit www.annapolis.gov. For construction updates call 410-263-7940 or visit http://www.ci.annapolis.md.us/news/traffic_map.html.

—Louis Llovio

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Ask the Plant Professor
Who’s That Strange Critter?

Q I found a tomato hornworm with long white oval things on her back. I don’t see any damage to my tomatoes, but is that normal?

A The cocoons you see are bad news for the hornworm and good news for you. Your hornworm has been parasitized by a braconid wasp. This tiny beneficial wasp lays its eggs on the hornworm. The larvae hatch and burrow into the unlucky hornworm. When ready to pupate, larvae form cocoons on the hornworm’s back. Adult wasps emerge from cocoons and fly away to parasitize more hornworms. Handpick and destroy any hornworms that have not been parasitized, or place them in a terrarium with some tomato leaves and wait to see if cocoons appear.

Q Can you identify an insect with a long tongue I saw gathering nectar from a petunia? It was an inch to an inch and a half with beautiful jewel colors. The wings were beating very rapidly, and the “tail” had a fringe. At first I thought it was a tiny hummingbird, but then I noticed that it had insect parts.

A The hummingbird moth closely mimics a hummingbird. It is a fascinating garden visitor and not a pest.

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

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Way Downstream …

In Virginia, scientists have obtained $900,000 to drill more than a mile deep near Cape Charles next year to learn more about the giant meteor that crashed there 30 million years ago, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The fireball from on high created a 56-mile-long crater and probably sent ocean waves as far as the Blue Ridge Mountains...

In Los Angeles, Californians have to be wondering about the monster in our midst. A story in the Sunday L.A. Times about the recurrence of snakeheads in Chesapeake Country ran under this headline: “Frankenfish Comes Back From the Dead.” The article began, “They may be exotic, but around these parts they’re nothing but common criminals”...

In Britain, two drug traffickers were convicted last week of an especially heinous brand of smuggling: They had hidden large packets of cocaine inside the stomachs of two Labrador retrievers. Customs agents became suspicious when one of the dogs became ill from a burst packet. The dog later died...

Our Creature Feature comes from Canada, where Winnipeg is torn by efforts to stop chemical fogging against mosquitoes. The prairie city is known for a particularly vicious brand of blood-suckers, but last week dozens of vocal critics of chemicals used to kill insects succeeded in forcing a three-day halt to spraying.

That hasn’t set well with locals concerned more about enjoying their two months of non-freezing Canadian weather than the dangers of breathing chemicals. “Egg-sucking, child-abusing granola munchers” is what a local talk-show host is calling the conservationists worried about protecting public health.

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