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People & Places

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday March 6, 2003

New scholarship created for former UA professor

An endowed scholarship has been established with the UA Foundation for Edwin N. Ferdon, a former associate director of the Arizona State Museum and an emeritus member of the anthropology department at the University of Arizona. Ferdon died of cancer in November 2002. He was 89.

Ferdon's career in anthropology began in college when he met Edgar L. Hewett, who started the Museum of New Mexico and the anthropology department at the University of New Mexico. At Hewett's urging, Ferdon left Ohio to attend field school and excavate the Chaco Canyon archaeological site.

In 1935, Ferdon and Hewett hiked 200 miles through the Andes Mountains in Peru and Boliva to study Incan road systems. Ferdon graduated from UNM in 1937 and earned a master's degree from the University of Southern California.

Ferdon returned to Santa Fe in 1957 as the associate director of the Museum of International Folk Art. In 1961 he became the associate director of the Arizona State Museum at the UA, a position he held until he retired in 1978.

Ferdon published widely on subjects ranging from Ecuadorian geography to Polynesian cultural and crop origins to Hohokam ball courts and the ruins of Tonala, Chiapas.

The Edwin N. Ferdon Scholarship will be available to undergraduates in all disciplines. Because Ferdon struggled financially while in college, his family has decided that the only criterion will be financial need.


UA researchers link toxic chemicals to breast cancer

Researchers at the University of Arizona have found that toxic chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's) damage the human gene that protects us from breast cancer. As a result, they have produced the first direct scientific evidence that these toxins widespread in our environment may be a primary cause of the most common of all female cancers.

Donato Romagnolo, a nutritional biochemist who heads the UA's Laboratory of Mammary Gland Biology, and his research team exposed human mammary tissue to PAH chemicals in a test tube. The results showed that the "breast cancer gene" found in mammary tissue lost its ability to repair cell damage, allowing cancerous cell growth to begin. Finding that the PAH chemicals act directly on the gene begins to explain the 90 percent of breast cancer cases in women who have no family history of the disease.

Contrary to what most women believe, only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers strike women with a family history of the disease. Most of these women carry a mutated form of the BRCA-1 gene that leaves them highly vulnerable to breast cancer.

PAH's found in polluted air and overcooked or charbroiled meat have caused mammary tumors in mice, but have not been directly linked to human tumors. But now, with UA laboratory research making the link, breast cancer will be added to the list of human cancers believed to be caused by PAHs, along with lung, stomach and skin cancers.


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