VCU’s cancer research on display at Massey’s annual Research Retreat
VCU Massey Cancer Center’s annual Cancer Research Retreat received an exceptional response despite following on the heels of one of the strongest storms Richmond has experienced in years. The gloomy weather did not hamper the bright scientific discussion emanating from the morning’s lectures and the afternoon’s poster session.
The morning began with presentations by Massey researchers Paula Bos, Ph.D., Margaret Park, Ph.D., Keith Ellis, Ph.D., and Darlene Brunzell, Ph.D. Bos, a member of the Cancer Molecular Genetics research program and assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at the VCU School of Medicine, presented on the role of the immune system, specifically Treg cells, in the breast tumor microenvironment. Park, a member of the Cancer Cell Signaling research program and assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the VCU School of Medicine, presented on the role of alternative RNA splicing in cancer metastasis. Ellis, a member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program and assistant professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry in the VCU School of Pharmacy, talked about the development of small molecule inhibitors affecting the C-terminal binding protein. And Brunzell, leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at Massey and assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the VCU School of Medicine, discussed research that could lead to novel approaches for promoting smoking cessation.
The Frank D. Pendleton Memorial Lecture was given by Robert Schreiber, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy programs, alumni professor of pathology and immunology and professor of molecular biology at Washington University School of Medicine. Schreiber’s presentation focused on advancements and challenges in personalizing cancer immunotherapies.
Following the morning lectures and lunch, participants attended the afternoon poster session, where 67 cancer research projects were presented by VCU graduate students and postdoctoral fellows competing for Excellence in Cancer Research Awards.
The quality of the research presented in the poster session was so high that the judges had difficulty selecting only three winners, so there was a tie for third place between Melissa Maczis and Nidhi Jariwala. Maczis, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the VCU School of Medicine, presented research on the role of estrogen receptor-α (ERα) and its ligand 17β-estradiol (E2) in triple negative breast cancer. Jariwala, a graduate student in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, presented findings from a study showing that pdTP, an inhibitor of the SND1 gene, could be a potential target for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Second place was awarded to Sarmistha Talukdar, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, for her research showing that the mda-9/syntenin gene plays an important role in regulating glioma cancer stem cells. Kimberly Mayes, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, took home first place. Mayes’ research used mouse models to show that a complex known as nucleosome remodeling factor (NURF) could be an important target for future immunotherapies.
“The purpose of the retreat is to spur collaboration and showcase the potential of our future leaders in cancer research.” said event organizer Jolene Windle, Ph.D., co-leader of the Cancer Molecular Genetics program and Irene Shaw Grigg Distinguished Professor in Genetics Research at Massey as well as professor in the VCU Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. “I want to thank everyone for their participation, and I look forward to seeing what next year has in store.”