The Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Initiative, the Cancer Community at Illinois, and Carle Health Systems are pleased to announce the inaugural group of C*STAR awardees: Elizabeth Awick, Mahdieh Jadaliha, and Evijola Llabani.
C*STAR, the Cancer Scholars for Translational and Applied Research program, is a graduate education program that fosters translational research and near-term benefits to the patients served in the community. Abstracts of the selected students’ proposed research can be found below:
Relationships among physical activity, quality of life, and cognitive function in breast cancer survivors
Elizabeth Awick | Faculty Advisor: Edward McAuley
This project focuses on the relationships among physical activity, quality of life, and cognitive function in breast cancer survivors. Cancer and its treatment are associated with a host of negative consequences, therefore maintaining health status in survivors is an important public health goal. While standard treatment care may help with adverse effects of chemotherapy, such methods can be costly. Furthermore, it is unclear whether these methods can assist in attenuating cognitive impairment, an important determinant of long-term survival after a cancer diagnosis. Past research has highlighted physical activity as a low cost, lifestyle behavior that provides numerous benefits to women after a breast cancer diagnosis. However, the extant literature examining the relationship between physical activity and cognition in this cancer cohort is equivocal and fraught with methodological problems. This project is a study to determine whether any effects of acute bouts of physical activity on cognitive function (i.e., speed of processing, spatial working memory, and attention) in breast cancer survivors are maintained beyond the exercise session.
Characterization of lncRNA to identify markers and drug targets
Mahdieh Jadaliha | Faculty Advisor: Kannanganattu Prasanth
Human genome encodes more than 15,000 long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) that underscore the role of lncRNAs in biological processes. Unlike protein-coding genes, the role of lncRNAs in breast cancer (BC) is largely unknown. Therefore, functional characterization of lncRNAs may enable us to identify novel prognostic markers and drug targets. Several studies suggest that lncRNAs function by interacting with RNA-binding proteins (RBPs).The study aims to provide further insights into BC progression and cancer stem cells and may enable us to identify novel molecular targets to develop new and improved strategies for therapy and to identify novel markers for an early prognosis. Traditional cancer therapies such as chemotherapy mostly target proliferating cells. But many epithelial tumors include a very small population of quiescent, slow cycling cancer stem cells. These quiescent cells potentially contribute to chemo-resistance by surviving therapy and re-initiating tumor growth and metastasis. A further understanding of cellular quiescence and cancer stem cells is required to develop new strategies for therapy. The objectives of this project are to investigate the role of lncRNAs and RBPs in BC progression and the molecular mechanism governing cellular quiescence.
Fluorometric microculture cytotoxicity assay for personalized medicine
Evijola Llabani | Faculty Advisor: Paul Hergenrother
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is responsible for 90% of breast cancer deaths and has an overall 5-year survival rate of 25%. It is extremely challenging to treat due to tumor heterogeneity and number/location of metastases. Regardless of hormone receptor status, MBC patients are treated with cytotoxic chemotherapeutics. Several single-agent drugs have been approved for MBC, but no clear consensus has emerged about which agent is superior or what drug to use for specific subtypes. Combination regimens have been extensively investigated, but due to overlapping toxicity profiles of candidate therapeutics, single-agent cytotoxic therapy remains the treatment of choice for MBC patients. Because there exists no standard-of-care chemotherapeutic treatment for MBC, there is a critical need to determine the best drug for each patient and to develop novel effective combination therapies. Considering the poor prognosis and varying efficacies of single-agent therapeutics, the overall objective of this project is to inform clinician decisions about single–agent selection for treatment of each MBC patient, and to discover effective combination regimens.
These are one-year awards, however they are eligible for competitive renewal for up to three years, pending demonstrated success.The long-term collaborative goals of the C*STAR program are to:
- Foster connections between Carle physician-scientists and Illinois faculty that lead to innovative research project.
- Develop the foundation for tangible translational outcomes.
- Develop a graduate education program that is supported by federally funded training programs.
- More effectively include Carle physicians, resources, and facilities into multi-PI efforts.
- Employ the program to attract high-quality clinician-scientists to Carle and translation-focused faculty to the university.
For more information visit: http://cancer.illinois.edu/education/graduate.