Several young investigators conducting cancer research at the WVU Health Sciences Center showcased their work during the 53rd Annual Van Liere Research Conference this past week.
They included the following students from the Cancer Institute’s Graduate Program in Cancer Cell Biology:
Kristina Marinak, Sila Yarnadag, Marc Purazo, Hannah Wilson, Ian MacFawn, Maria Voronkova and Brenen Papenberg presented posters and Jessica Allen gave an oral presentation.
Kristina Marinak won first place in the Basic Science 4 group for her poster Nuclear Aurora-A Kinase promotes metastasis in Breast Cancer. Marinak’s research focused on the role of nuclear Aurora-A Kinase in the progression of triple negative breast cancer and spread of the disease to other parts of the body.
Sila Yarnadag presented Kinesin motor KIF2C regulates cilia-driven oncogenic signaling in glioblastoma. Yarnadag’s research focused on identifying specific mechanisms that contribute to the development of glioblastoma multiforme, one of the deadliest types of brain cancer, with the long-term goal of finding new treatment strategies for the disease.
Marc Purazo presented NEDD9 adaptor protein regulates HER2-driven oncogenic signaling in breast cancer. Purazo’s research looked at new treatment strategies for human epidermal receptor positive breast cancer in which a resistance mechanism has occurred.
Marinak’s, Yarnadag’s and Purazo’s advisor: Elena Pugacheva, PhD, WVU Department of Biochemistry, member of the WVU Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Program
Hannah Wilson presented Patient-Derived Orthotopic Xemograft Model of Breast Cancer-Associated Muscle Fatigue: Novel Pathways in Cancer Cachexia. Wilson’s research focused on a new model of breast cancer-induced muscle fatigue.
Advisor: Emidio Pistilli , PhD, WVU Department: Human Performance - Exercise Physiology and Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology, member of the WVU Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Program
Ian MacFawn presented Epigenetic regulation of resistance to NK killing by Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition. MacFawn’s research focused on understanding the mechanisms of a particular gene that protects cancer cells from becoming more resilient and invasive.
Advisor: Steven Frisch, PhD, WVU Department of Biochemistry, member of the WVU Cancer Institute Mechanisms of Metastasis & Therapeutic Response Program
Maria Voronkova presented SOX9 regulates cancer stem-like cells and chemotherapy response in non-small cell lung cancer. Voronkova’s research focused on the role of a stem cell protein that contributes to how well lung cancer cells respond to chemotherapy.
Advisor: Yon Rojanasakul, PhD, WVU Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Co-Leader of WVU Cancer Institute Sara Crile Allen and James Frederick Allen Lung Cancer Program
Brenen Papenberg presented Molecular Characterization of Mortality Dispartiy in Tobacco-Associated Appalachian HNSCC. Papenberg’s research focused on a newly defined Appalachian health disparity for male patients with stage IV head and neck cancer. These patients have a worse survival rate than similar patients outside of Appalachia, possibly due to increased genetic damage from elevated tobacco usage in the region.
Jessica Allen gave an oral presentation titled Coronin 1B as a Regulator of HNSCC Invasion. Allen’s research focused on the protein coronin 1B which, when expressed at high levels in head and neck cancer, leads to decreased patient survival. She hopes to unravel the mechanism by which coronin 1B makes cancer cells more aggressive.
Allen’s and Papenberg’s advisor: Scott Weed, PhD, WVU Department of Biochemistry, Director of Cancer Cell Biology Graduate Education, member of the WVU Cancer Institute Mechanisms of Metastasis & Therapeutic Response Program
David McDermott was second place winner in the Oral Presentation Clinical and Translational and Epidemiology category. His presentation was titled Tumor Cavity Recurrence after Stereotactic Radiosurgery of Surgically Resected Brain Metastases: Implication of Deviations from Contouring Guidelines. McDermott evaluated the patterns of local recurrence in patients with brain metastases treated with post-operative stereotactic radiosurgery, and looked at how deviations from proposed contouring guidelines would effect outcomes.
McDermott is the first resident in the WVU Department of Radiation Oncology Residency Program.
Advisor: John Vargo, MD, WVU Department of Radiation Oncology
Daniel Vanderbilt won first place in the Clinical Fellows and Residents category for his poster Hypoxic gene expression defines novel tumor subtypes in glioblastoma. Vanderbilt’s research focused on how the expression of certain genes, in relation to the decreased oxygen found in aggressive brain tumors, can be used to help group cases into subtypes with different clinical and biological traits. He found that patients with tumors where there was low expression of these hypoxia-related genes, tended to have longer survival, and these tumors were more likely to have mutations of a key gene called IDH1.
Vanderbilt is in the WVU School of Medicine Graduate Medical Education Program.
Advisor: John Vargo, MD, WVU Department of Radiation Oncology, and Michael Ruppert, MD/PhD, WVU Department of Biochemistry, and leader of the WVU Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Research Program.
Abhishek Yadav, a second year medical student in the Initiation to Research Opportunities (INTRO) Summer Research Program, won first place in the Medical Student group for his poster IL-6 and CCL5 secretion by adipose-derived stem cells in the breast tumor microenvironment. Yadav’s research focused on the role of stem cells from fat in breast cancer. His research was also presented nationally at the AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium last December.
Advisor: Linda Vona-Davis, PhD, West Virginia University HSC Research and Graduate Education, Director of Biomedical Master of Science in Health Sciences, WVU Department of Surgery, and member of WVU Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Research Program
Kayla Steinberger presented a poster titled HIF-1α regulates the Tie2 receptor on Tie2-expressing monocytes in PyMT breast tumors and augments angiogenic function and metastatic potential. Steinberger’s research focused on how oxygen, or the lack thereof, regulates a type of immune cell that has been shown to promote the progression of breast cancer.
Steinberger is a graduate student in the WVU Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology.
Advisor: Timothy Eubank, PhD, WVU Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology,
member of the WVU Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Program
The 53rd Annual Van Liere Research Conference was sponsored by the WVU Office of Research and Graduate Education and is a celebration of Health Sciences Center research.
Cervical cancer can be insidious. Changes to the cervix are often detected with a pap smear, but for those with limited access to health care, cervical and vaginal cancers can go unnoticed for years—silently growing, spreading and invading other organs—and by the time they’re detected, they may be so advanced that the patient’s prognosis is poor and her treatment options few. Valerie Galvan Turner, a gynecologic oncologist at the West Virginia University Cancer Institute, has opened a randomized clinical trial to assess whether a novel supplemental treatment can help chemotherapy and radiation fight these dangerous forms of cancer better.