Originally created 02/03/03

Emory researcher's project destroyed in shuttle disaster



ATLANTA -- An Emory University professor of medicine, whose cancer experiment went into space on board the shuttle Columbia, will dedicate any publication that results from the research to the astronauts killed in Saturday's disaster and their families.

Leland W. K. Chung, director of the school's molecular urology and therapeutics program, hoped to use the zero-gravity environment to grow prostate cancer cells and bone stroma, or tissue framework. Zero gravity creates cell growth conditions that cannot be created with lab specimens on Earth.

The research was destroyed when the shuttle broke apart in flames 200,000 feet over Texas on Saturday, killing all seven astronauts just minutes before they were to glide to a landing in Florida.

Dr. Fray Marshall, chairman of the Department of Urology at the Emory University School of Medicine, said some very useful data already had been received from the experiment.

"The early results were dramatic and verified the hypothesis that these prostate cancer cells and bone stroma cells grow vastly better in the zero gravity environment of space," Marshall said in a statement.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the astronauts and to those who are involved in the space shuttle Columbia mission," Marshall said, speaking on behalf of Chung and all the faculty and staff at Emory.