Promising research into treatments for head and neck cancer has garnered two awards for a Doctor of Medicine-Doctor of Philosophy candidate in the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Jacob New, from Overland Park, Kansas, received both the University Kansas Medical Center and the BioKansas Awards at the 14th Annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka on March 10.
"These awards encourage us to work harder toward the goal of curing this devastating disease," New said. "We really hope our work will help patients right here in our communities, and these awards were an encouragement that we are on the right track."
New was one of five students from KU Medical Center who presented their research at the event, which takes place annually to emphasize the role graduate students' research plays at the Kansas Board of Regents institutions. The other four students from KU Medical Center were Joshua Breeden, School of Medicine; Ian Huck, School of Medicine; Heather Brantley-Nelson, School of Nursing; and Kelly Zarifa, School of Health Professions.
Graduate students from KU Medical Center were joined by their peers from KU-Lawrence, Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Kansas State, Pittsburg State and Wichita State at the event, where state officials and the public were invited to learn about the broad range of research being conducted.
New researches head and neck cancer, a form of cancer that has a significant occurrence rate associated with low chances of survival. Researchers have found that non-cancerous cells called fibroblasts are frequently associated with the tumor cells. Previous research from the laboratory showed that in the presence of tumor-associated fibroblasts, the cancer becomes more aggressive and metastatic.
New was intrigued by these findings, so he compared fibroblast cells from non-cancerous and cancerous tissue using an electron microscope. New and his colleagues observed that tumor-associated fibroblasts have a high rate of autophagy - or self-eating, a process where components inside the cell are digested to generate energy. They theorized that cancer cells highjack the normal biological processes of the surrounding fibroblasts and tell them to consume themselves as a means of supporting the cancer's growth.
The group has identified factors that are secreted by cancer cells to signal fibroblasts to become autophagic. In addition, they identified factors produced by autophagic fibroblasts that induce cancer growth. Further, stopping autophagy significantly reduced fibroblast-supported cancer growth.
New and his colleagues have had promising results in reducing cancer growth in the lab when using the standard of care therapy in combination with autophagy inhibitors. "These discoveries are fantastic, and hopefully they will mean better treatments for patients in the future," New said.
Joshua Breeden, medical student, cardiovascular research, "Inhibition of STAT3 Suppresses Angiotensin II-Induced Cardiomyoblast Hypertrophy Through Modulating the AMPα/mTOR Autophagy Pathway."
Ian Huck, doctoral student in pharmacology, toxicology and therapeutics, "Identification of Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 Alpha (HNF4) Target Gene Signature and Validation as a Prognostic Biomarker OF Hepatocellular Carcinoma."
Heather Nelson-Brantley, doctoral student in nursing, "Improving Rural Critical Access Hospital Outcomes: An Exemplary Case Study." Jacob New, medical student and doctoral student in cancer biology, "Secretory Autophagy in Tumor Associated Fibroblasts Promotes Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Progression and Emerges as a Novel Therapeutic Target."
Kelly Zarifa, doctoral student in hearing and speech, "To Have a Voice: Treatment Planning for Persons With Aphasia, The Kansas Connection."
Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol
Seven students from the University of Kansas Medical Center took part in Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol on Feb. 15, along with their peers from the Kansas Board of Regents' other four-year institutions. Students gave brief poster presentation during the public event on the first floor of the rotunda. Among the highlighted guests were state legislators, Board of Regents members and various faculty members from across the state.
Ethan Alquist and Trung Nguyen, seniors in the Department of Respiratory Care Education, presented their research titled "Art Speaks: Using Art to Enhance Interprofessional Communication in Respiratory Care Students Through Visual Assessment and Interpretation." They were mentored by Karen Schell, clinical assistant professor in respiratory care.
"It's a great honor to represent KU medical Center at Undergraduate Research Day at the Capital," Nguyen said. "It's such a huge learning experience."
Alquist added, "It was truly a learning experience being part of a unique event that contained many talented students and phenomenal professors. It has brought to light a lot of the different research projects that the different schools are doing. Truly a fun and pronounced learning experience."
Seniors Kim Kaberline and Brandon Conrade represented the Department of Health Information Management and were mentored by Murad Moqbel, Ph.D., MBA, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Health Professions. Their research was titled "Factors Contributing to Kansas' 'Brain Drain.'"
"I felt a sense of pride knowing our research was requested by elected Kansas representatives," Conrade said.
Seniors Cassie Caedo, Kathryn Noble and Annie Yungmeyer represented the KU School of Nursing.
Caedo, who was mentored by Martha Baird, Ph.D., APRN, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, presented, "A Survey of Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Practice Nurses' Attitudes and Experiences in Telemental Health."
"Self-Reported Experiences of Breastfeeding Adolescent Mothers Participating in a Pilot Intervention Focused on Promoting Healthy Behaviors," was presented by Yungmeyer. She was mentored by Karen Wambach, Ph.D., RN, professor and director of the Ph.D., program in the School of Nursing.
Noble, who was mentored by Marge Bott, Ph.D., RN, associate dean for research and associate professor in the School of Nursing, presented "Relationship Between Family Caregiver Burden with Time Involved in Caregiving and Satisfaction with Care for Residents in the Nursing Home."