Marshall biomedical sciences’ researchers publish e-book on nutrition and cancer

Cover of "Nutrition and Cancer: From Epidemiology to Biology"Researchers at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine have collaborated on an electronic book, “Nutrition and Cancer From Epidemiology to Biology,” recently published by Bentham Science Publishers.

This ebook is one of the latest efforts of researchers at the Marshall University Nutrition and Cancer Center.

A collection of scientific articles written by Marshall faculty members and students, the publication was edited by Dr. Richard M. Niles, professor and chairman of the university’s Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology and director of the McKown Translational Genomic Research Institute.

According to the publisher, various estimates suggest that between 30-40% of all human cancers are related to dietary patterns. Strong epidemiological evidence from studies points to dietary constituents that either contribute or protect against the development of various forms of cancer.

This e-book reviews some traditional and relatively new areas of nutrition and cancer. Epidemiological data is combined with molecular biology research and, where available, clinical trial data. The emerging science of “Nutrigenomics” is discussed with chapters on the biological role of various nutrition components from red wine, peppers, green tea, fish oil, cruciferous vegetables, retinoids; and the intersection of nutrition and epigenetics in hematopoiesis.

The publication will be of interest to researchers in the nutrition and cancer fields, physicians in family and community medicine, internal medicine and oncology, and dieticians providing counseling to cancer patients and cancer survivors.

by Ginny Painter
Director of Communications
Marshall University Research Corporation 
ginny.painter@marshall.edu 
www.marshall.edu/murc  

 

BMS associate professor plays significant role in heated tobacco debate

by Saeed Keshavarzian, BMS Medical Sciences student

Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.Marshall’s Student Government Association (SGA) recently held a meeting to vote on a campus-wide tobacco ban. Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp asked Student Body President Ray Harrell Jr. to form a joint committee to draft a proposal for Marshall University to go tobacco free. The committee drafted the proposal to ban all tobacco products campus-wide.

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine was asked by Amy Saunders, Director of Student Health Education Programs, to attend the meeting in order to explain the effects of nicotine on the human body, and to answer any questions that the gallery had regarding the ill effects of nicotine. 

Early into the meeting Dr. Dasgupta explained that nicotine “can promote tobacco related diseases,” one of which is lung cancer. She also stated that her lab is performing research on the “ill effects of second hand smoke, even third hand smoke, which is the stuff that sticks to your car, [and] to your clothes when you smoke.” As the gallery was allowed to ask questions and voice concerns, Dr. Dasgupta answered health-related questions that were asked. After two hours of heated debate and testimonials from both the SGA senators and the gallery, the SGA voted 11-7 in favor of the campus-wide tobacco ban.

Biomedical sciences doctoral students take top awards at regional conference


Contact: 
Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964, or  Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine & Pharmacy, 304-691-1713

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two biomedical sciences doctoral students from Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine captured first place in both categories of a research competition held earlier this month in conjunction with the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference.

They were among more than 40 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from Marshall, West Virginia University, University of Kentucky and Ohio University competing at the conference, which was held Oct. 12 at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at Charleston Area Medical Center.

Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine biomedical sciences Ph.D. students Johannes Fahrmann, standing, and Rounak Nande, seated, captured first place in their respective categories at a research competition held earlier this month in conjunction with the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference. Fahrmann won the oral presentation category and Nande took first place in the poster category.

Marshall biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate Johannes Fahrmann received first place in the oral presentation category of the competition for a presentation about his research to explore the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in late stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rounak Nande, who is also a doctoral student in the university’s biomedical sciences program, was awarded first place in the poster category for a poster describing his project to help develop a delivery system for targeted gene therapy to improve the treatment of prostate cancer. 

Fahrmann said the conference was a valuable experience and he hopes to continue his involvement with the event in the future. 

“The conference was aimed at networking, collaborations and showcasing the research being conducted by students at the attending universities,” he added. “I was given the honor and privilege to represent Marshall University through an oral presentation describing my cancer research, and was very pleased to receive the overall award. Neither the award nor the conference itself could have come to fruition without the dedicated work of the organizing committee, which included our own graduate student Allison Wolf.”

He also expressed appreciation to his faculty mentor, Dr. Elaine Hardman, Marshall professor of biochemistry and microbiology. 

Hardman praised Fahrmann’s work, saying, “Johannes is an outstanding senior graduate student who will do well in research. The presentation he made was completely his own work—he developed the idea, wrote a grant, obtained the funding to do the work and has excellent results. His work has clear clinical relevance and, we hope, will apply to enhancing cancer therapy in the near future. He is a leader in the department and an outstanding role model for the younger graduate students. I am delighted with his success and to have him for a student.”

Nande said of the experience, “I, too, felt privileged to take part in the first-ever ARCC conference put together by the four universities. I would like to thank my mentor at Marshall, Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, and my collaborators from the Tri-State Regional Cancer Center in Ashland, Ky., Dr. Michael Gossman and Dr. Jeffrey Lopez, for having confidence in me to present our research.”

Claudio, who is an associate professor of biochemistry and microbiology and director of the McKown Translational Genomics Research Institute, said he was pleased with Nande’s success at the conference and emphasized the potential importance of the student’s research.

“A major challenge for effective gene therapy is the ability to specifically deliver nucleic acids and potentially toxic gene products directly into diseased tissue. This system Ron helped develop in our lab allows for the specific delivery of smart biological drugs to diseased tissues using the blood stream. The advantage of this technique is that the therapeutic viruses are released in a concentrated manner in the diseased tissue, eliciting an enhanced therapeutic effect while minimizing complications,” added Claudio.

Two additional Marshall graduate students, Kristeena Ray and Sarah Mathis, were selected as winners in their categories of the poster competition—Ray for a poster showcasing her research into the role of epigenetics in endometriosis-associated pain and Mathis for a poster describing her work to help develop a test that could make possible individualized chemotherapy treatments. Ray works in the lab of Dr. Nalini Santanam, Marshall professor of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology. Claudio serves as Mathis’s faculty mentor.

The conference was organized and hosted by the four institutions with the goal of expanding the field of cell biology research and fostering interactions among scientists at the universities in the Ohio Valley/mid-Appalachian region. In addition to the oral and poster presentations, the program featured keynote speaker Dr. Vinay Pathak, a senior investigator in HIV drug resistance at the National Cancer Institute, and networking opportunities for more than 80 students and faculty members who participated in the program. The conference was funded through a grant from the American Society for Cell Biology.

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Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University

Drs. Claudio and Niles co-edit and publish an ebook on nutrition and cancer featuring BMS professors and students

Cover of "Nutrition and Cancer: From Epidemiology to Biology"Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D./Ph.D., and Richard M. Niles, Ph.D., of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program have co-edited and written articles in an ebook entitled “Nutrition and Cancer: From Epidemiology to Biology.” This ebook is one of the latest efforts of cancer researchers at the Marshall University Nutrition and Cancer Center, where the role of nutrition in cancer is actively and successfully investigated. The ebook contains a collection of scientific articles, written by researchers and students in the Marshall University Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program.  

The purpose of this publication is to educate and inform the public regarding the latest knowledge on nutrition and cancer. It focuses on the role of various nutritional components in cancer prevention, as well their present and future use in cancer therapy. According to Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, “This e-book will be of interest to researchers in the nutrition and cancer field, physicians in family and community medicine, internal medicine and oncology, as well as dieticians providing counseling to cancer patients and cancer survivors.”

Dr. Niles says that the best description of the importance of this book can be found within the foreword, written by Dr. Gary Meadows of Washington State University:

“While we as individuals cannot modify our genetic makeup and may have little control over the multitude of carcinogens in our environment, we have the power to make healthy diet-based choices that can significantly modify cancer risk and progression. The authors have structured this book not only to review the epidemiological studies that support the roles of selected nutrients/phytochemicals in cancer control, but also they review the cellular and molecular pathways involved in their action as well as the clinical data related to their efficacy in cancer treatment. Consequently, this book has wide appeal not only to researchers in the nutrition and cancer field, but also to oncology practitioners, dieticians, as well as cancer survivors, who are interested learning how healthy dietary choices can enhance their quality of life.” 

According to Dr. Niles, editing the book involved reviewing each chapter and making suggestions for improvement of the content handwriting. He also co-wrote a chapter with Dr. Rankin on resveratrol, found in high concentration in red wine, and its ability to inhibit the development or progression of certain types of cancer. Dr. Claudio co-wrote an article with Ph.D. candidate M. Allison Wolf on isothiocyanates, phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables, which his lab found to target carcinogenesis during tumor initiation, promotion, and progression.

The following authors and articles are found within the ebook:

Richard M. Niles, Ph.D. and Gary O. Rankin, Ph.D.
Resveratrol, A Phytoalexin with a Multitude of Anti-Cancer Activities

Jamie K. Lau, Kathleen C. Brown, Aaron M. Dom and Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.
Capsaicin: Potential Applications in Cancer Therapy

W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids as an Adjuvant to Cancer Therapy

Richard Egleton, Ph.D.
Green Tea Catechins and Cancer

Kinsley Kelley Kiningham, Ph.D., and Anne Silvis
Receptor Independent Effects of Retinoids

Vincent E. Sollars, Ph.D.
Epigenetics as a Mechanism for Dietary Fatty Acids to Affect Hematopoietic Stem/Progenitor Cells And Leukemia – Royal Jelly for the Blood

Monica Valentovic, Ph.D. and Nalini Santanam, Ph.D./M.P.H.
Nutrition, Oxidative Stress and Cancer

John Wilkinson IV, Ph.D.
Is there an Etiologic Role for Dietary Iron and Red Meat in Breast Cancer Development?

M. Allison Wolf and Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D./Ph.D.
Isothiocyanates Target Carcinogenesis During Tumor Initiation, Promotion and Progression

The ebook can be ordered directly online through the Bentham Science website at the following link: http://198.247.95.142/ebooks/9781608054473/index.htm

Marshall scientist awarded NIH grant for lung cancer research

The following story from the Marshall University Research Corporation highlights two researchers within the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program: Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.


Piyali Dagupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.

 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Marshall University faculty member has been awarded a three-year, $426,000 grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further her lung cancer research.

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, will use the grant to continue her work to determine if the nutritional agent capsaicin—the active ingredient in chili peppers—can improve the anti-cancer activity of the commonly used chemotherapy drug cisplatin in patients with small cell lung cancer.

Dasgupta received the funding through the National Cancer Institute’s Academic Research Enhancement Award program. The program supports research projects in the biomedical and behavioral sciences that strengthen the research environment of the institution and expose students to research. Her co-investigator is Dr. Monica Valentovic, a professor in the same department.

“Small cell lung cancer is characterized by a high rate of growth, early metastasis and a dismal survival rate,” said Dasgupta. “Although chemotherapy works well initially in these patients, they often relapse quickly and become unresponsive to chemotherapy. Since the preliminary data in our laboratory shows that capsaicin manifests anti-cancer activity in this type of cancer, we are hopeful our studies under this new grant may lead to new treatments.”

She continued, “I am thrilled to receive this funding and I am grateful to a lot of people who have been instrumental in our success to this point. My collaborator Dr. Valentovic is a fabulous scientist to work with. I am also grateful to all the members of my lab for their hard work and dedication.”

Dasgupta also acknowledged the support of the chairman of her department, Dr. Gary Rankin, and acknowledged Dr. Marcia Harrison and the MU-ADVANCE program, which she says made it possible for undergraduate students to work in her lab. MU-ADVANCE is a National Science Foundation-funded program to help increase the number of female science and engineering faculty at the university.

Dasgupta says she believes her proposal was selected for funding at least in part because the grant program’s focus on student research made it a good match for her lab. Undergraduates working in her lab have a track record of receiving research grants, authoring publications and presenting their findings at international conferences.

Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, congratulated the researchers, saying, “NIH grants are extraordinarily competitive, and I applaud Drs. Dasgupta and Valentovic for having a successful application. They are doing vital research that may very well have a positive impact on human health in the not-so-distant future. In addition, the grant will allow them to continue to give students hands-on, meaningful research opportunities in the lab.”

In addition to receiving the new NIH funding, Dasgupta recently was notified that her grant from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute has been renewed for an additional two years. The renewal, which extends the original three-year award, makes the total grant worth nearly $550,000. That grant is funding Dasgupta’s study of how nicotine, the active component in cigarette smoke, facilitates the progression of lung cancer. Valentovic is also the co-investigator on that award.


Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964

Marshall investigators to help lead Research Challenge Fund projects for energy, cancer studies

The following story from the Marshall University Research Corporation highlights the cancer research of two professors from the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, Dr. Richard Niles and Dr. Donald Primerano. It also provides a spotlight on the WV Cancer Genomics Network,  which these two faculty members helped launch as Principal Investigators.


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Researchers at Marshall University are among the lead investigators on two projects to be funded through the state’s Research Challenge Fund, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission announced today.

Photo of Dr. Thomas WilsonMarshall faculty members Drs. Thomas Wilson, Richard Niles and Donald Primerano will help direct the projects—one to develop better electronics and the other to learn more about cancers affecting West Virginians. The projects began this month and will be conducted in cooperation with researchers at West Virginia University (WVU). Each project will receive a total of $1,350,000 over the next five years.

The Research Challenge Fund was established by the state legislature in 2002 to provide seed money for new research. Projects funded through the program support the creation of research centers and start-up businesses, and foster economic development and work force advancement.

Announcing the awards, Dr. Paul L. Hill, the commission’s chancellor, said, “The primary goal of the Research Challenge Fund is to sponsor innovative research at our colleges and universities while improving the institutions’ ability to compete for federal and private funding on the national level.”

Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, said, “Marshall University is pleased to have been selected to receive funding through this important program. The Research Challenge Fund is one of the state’s largest investments in research and innovation, and the application process is always quite competitive. The fact that our investigators are integral to two of the projects announced today speaks volumes about the quality of research being done at Marshall. I look forward to watching these projects develop over the coming years.”

The funding to create a Center for Energy Efficient Electronics at Marshall and WVU will be used to investigate and develop devices that will lead to next-generation electronics that are smaller, faster and more energy efficient than current technology allows. The principal investigators on the project are Wilson, who is a professor of physics at Marshall; Dr. David Lederman, a professor of physics at WVU; and Drs. Alan Bristow, Mikel Holcomb and Tudor Stanescu, associate professors of physics at WVU.

According to the investigators, there is strong interest in the research community in the concepts of spintronics and magnonics, where spin degrees of freedom and magnetic excitations are used for information storage and processing. Spintronics and magnonics are expected to result in electronic devices that are faster and use substantially less power than current electronics because spin and magnetic excitation currents do not dissipate nearly as much energy as charge currents.

“In my lab at Marshall, I will be probing the effects of applying uniaxial stress to the magnonic devices to adjust their frequencies,” said Wilson. “This proof-of-concept experiment will permit us to determine whether it is feasible to use strain to fabricate THz magnonic devices for ultrafast communication applications.”

The second research project will further develop and expand the West Virginia Cancer Genomics Network to involve Marshall, WVU and Charleston Area Medical Center. Network partners will develop a genetic database for cancers with a higher incidence in West Virginia. Researchers will use the data in studies and clinical trials funded by federal and/or private grants and to help develop start-up biotechnology companies. Principal investigators for this study are Niles, who is a professor and chairman of Marshall’s Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology; Primerano, who is a professor of biochemistry and microbiology at Marshall and the director of the university’s Genomics Core Facility; Dr. William Petros, a professor of biochemistry at WVU; and Dr. Todd Kuenstner, the director of pathology at Charleston Area Medical Center.

Photo of Dr. Richard Niles

Niles said, “We started the Cancer Genomics Network several years ago with money from the federal stimulus, to collect genetic information about cancers that have a high prevalence in West Virginia—namely lung, colorectal and ovarian cancers, and acute myeloid leukemia. Through this award, along with our network partners at WVU and CAMC, we’ll be working to identify new diagnostic/prognostic markers and new targets for cancer therapy.”

 

Primerano added, “At our Genomics Core Facility, we will be sequencing and analyzing the tissue samples collected through the network, allowing us to gain information critical to understanding, preventing and treating cancer in future patients.”

Photo of Dr. Donald Primerano

The grants announced today are the third round of Research Challenge Fund awards made since the program began. According to the Higher Education Policy Commission, the first round—a state investment of $8.4 million—produced more than $20 million in external funding, helped create five startup companies and led to 10 patent applications. Results from the second round of grants, awarded in 2007, are being analyzed and will be reported to the governor and legislature by the end of the year.

More information about the Research Challenge Fund program and other research initiatives is available at www.wvresearch.org.


Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964

Progenesis to be featured at international biosciences conference

The following story from the Marshall University Research Corporation (MURC) features Progenesis Technologies, co-founded by Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program professors Dr. Hongwei Yu and Dr. Richard Niles. Progenesis is a research and development company focused on demonstrating the feasibility of manufacturing its genetically-engineered bacterial alginates on an industrial scale. It is one of the “high-tech spinout companies” from Marshall University mentioned in the article.

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Bio International Convention
The largest annual global event for the biotechnology industry, the BIO International Convention attracts an audience of more than 15,000 biotech business leaders, scientists, executives and investors from around the world.

Dr. John Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, says the Bioscience Association of West Virginia (BioWV)—along with the West Virginia Development Office and the Biotech Alliance of the Huntington Area Development Council (HADCO)—is hosting a West Virginia Pavilion at the convention.

Maher, who is also vice-chairman of BioWV, said the Marshall-related companies to be featured at the pavilion include Vandalia Research, Progenesis Technologies and Cordgenics. All three businesses were founded based on technologies developed at Marshall and are headquartered in the state.

“The West Virginia Pavilion will highlight key participants in our state’s life sciences community,” he said. “There is a great deal of very exciting biotechnology work happening here at Marshall and we are pleased to have this opportunity to share it with conference attendees from the rest of the country and around the world.”

Bryan Brown, executive director of BioWV, added, “Not only will the West Virginia Pavilion highlight the outstanding bioscience companies in West Virginia and the excellent biomedical research at our major universities, we will also showcase all the state has to offer in terms of quality of life and increased business competitiveness to our colleagues from the rest of the country and around the world. We hope that participation in this event will help to attract new entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, investors and businesses to West Virginia.”

BIO International Convention attendees include a mix of biotechnology, pharmaceutical, plant and life science, medical diagnostic, instrumentation and technology companies of all sizes, including the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world. Also represented are economic development organizations and businesses that support the industry, including law firms, service providers, investors, and suppliers of laboratory equipment and products. Representatives from more than 200 universities and academic communities also attend for networking, educational sessions and collaboration opportunities. There is a strong international attendance, with participants from approximately 60 countries.

Marshall University is a founding member of the Bioscience Association of West Virginia. The purpose of the association is to promote and strengthen the bioscience industry in the state by developing a cohesive community that unites biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device and research organizations. To advance this mission, BioWV provides educational, networking and commercial opportunities for its members, and serves as an educational and information resource to advance public understanding about the bioscience industry. For more information, visit www.biowv.org.

Faculty Spotlight: Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.

Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.This month’s faculty spotlight is on Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D. Dr. Dasgupta has had a great year at the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, including being promoted to Associate Professor. She instructs within the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology.

She has attended many conferences over the past year, including co-chairing a minisymposium at Experimental Biology 2012.

Dr. Dasgupta’s research examines how the components of tobacco can promote the progression of lung cancer. She researches within the Cancer Biology research cluster.

In 2011, she was recognized with the university’s “John and Frances Rucker Graduate Advisor Award.”

Congratulations, Dr. Dasgupta!

M. Allison Wolf, Ph.D. Candidate

M. Allison Wolf, Ph.D. candidateThis month’s student spotlight focuses on M. Allison Wolf, a Ph.D. candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. Allison currently serves as the President of the Graduate Student Organization and has actively been involved in disseminating her research over the past few years. Allison has been active in the GSO throughout her time as a student in the program.

Allison studies the anticancer effects of isothiocyanates—a natural compound extracted from cruciferous vegetables—on head and neck cancer. Her work shows that the compound both inhibits head and neck metastasis and greatly increases sensitivity to chemotherapy in therapy-resistant head and neck cancers. Allison works in the lab of Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, an associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Surgery at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Allison presented this year at Experimental Biology in San Diego.

Congratulations, Allison, for being our Spotlight Student!

Biomedical Sciences students recognized at international science meeting

M. Allison Wolf, Ph.D. candidateHUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two Marshall University students received special recognition for their research at this year’s international Experimental Biology conference held April 21-25 in San Diego.
 
M. Allison Wolf, a biomedical sciences doctoral candidate from Parkersburg, received first place in her group in a poster competition held as part of the conference’s Diet and Cancer mini-symposium. The mini-symposium was funded by the American Society of Nutrition.
 
Wolf’s presentation focused on her research on the anticancer effects of isothiocyanates—a natural compound extracted from cruciferous vegetables—on head and neck cancer. Her work shows the compound both inhibits head and neck metastasis and greatly increases sensitivity to chemotherapy in therapy-resistant head and neck cancers. Wolf works in the lab of Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, an associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Surgery at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
 
Wolfe said she gained a great deal from the experience of attending the program and presenting her work.
 
“I really enjoyed this conference, particularly the Nutrition and Cancer Research Interest group, because it allowed me to be surrounded by people in my field,” she said. “Discussing my research with others also interested in or working on isothiocyanates gave me some promising future directions to pursue.”
 
Aaron Dom, a first-year MUSOM student and graduate of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate ProgramIn addition, Aaron M. Dom, a first-year medical school student from Wellersburg, Pa., was invited to do a special oral “blitz” presentation about his research on how a synthetic drug called MG624 can prevent new blood vessel growth in small cell lung cancer and could potentially serve as a therapy for the disease. Dom was invited to present by the Blood Vessel Club of the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP). ASIP held its annual meeting in conjunction with the Experimental Biology conference. The club sponsors the short oral presentations to present exciting new vascular biology research and to give audience members an opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions about the research.
 
Dom, who is the president of the medical school’s Class of 2015, did the research in the lab of Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacol­ogy, Physiology and Toxicology.
 
He said of the experience, “Our lab is honored that I was selected to present at this special session, and we were excited to share some of the work that we are doing here at the medical school. Experiences like these—in both helping with this research and in presenting at and attending a conference of this size—have helped me gain a greater appreciation for research in medicine.”
 
Nearly 14,000 scientists and exhibitors representing academic institutions, government agencies, non-profit organizations and private corporations attend the annual Experimental Biology meeting to share information about recent developments in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, nutrition and pharmacology.

Drs. Xie and Claudio receive grants for orthopedic and lung cancer research

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two Marshall University scientists have been awarded grants of $25,000 each to advance their research, encourage collaborations and spur innovative approaches to healthcare.

Dr. Jingwei Xie and Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio are the recipients of the first grants awarded through the Joint Pilot Research Program set up by Marshall and the University of Kentucky (UK) as part of their Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) partnership. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the CTSA program is aimed at speeding the time for laboratory discoveries to benefit patients.

A senior scientist at the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, Xie will use his award to develop a method that may improve surgical repair of rotator cuff injuries.

Jingwei Xie, Ph.D.Xie, who is an expert in bone growth and development, will be working with Dr. Franklin D. Shuler, associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Among the most common conditions affecting the shoulder, rotator cuff injuries can occur from falls or repetitive motions like throwing a baseball. Rotator cuff repair is also one of the most common orthopedic surgeries, with approximately 300,000 procedures performed annually in the United States alone.

Xie explains that successful healing from rotator cuff surgery done with current methods has a failure rate that ranges from 20 to 90 percent, due in large part to the manner in which the tendons are reattached to the bone. For this project, he will use a multidisciplinary approach combining principles of engineering and biomedicine to construct a new type of biological device that will better mimic an uninjured tendon-to-bone attachment, and result in improved healing.

“We are pleased to be able to take advantage of this opportunity to combine expertise from two research groups at Marshall,” Xie adds. “My background in tissue engineering and Dr. Shuler’s extensive experience in clinical treatment of rotator cuff injury will allow us to do work that may very well improve the health and quality of life for individuals afflicted with these injuries. This research could also have a significant impact on the treatment of other, similar injuries of soft tissue-to-bone interfaces.”

Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D., Ph.D.The second grant went to Claudio, associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Surgery at the medical school, to help develop an assay that will potentially allow the development of personalized treatment for lung cancer. He will collaborate with Dr. Rolf J. Craven of UK’s Department of Molecular and Biomedical Pharmacology on the project.

According to Claudio, lung cancer patients generally have a poor survival rate, mostly because of the high number of relapses they typically experience. Scientists believe these relapses are due to the presence of a rare population of cancer cells—called cancer stem cells—that have become resistant to conventional treatments.

Claudio’s laboratory in the university’s new McKown Translational Genomic Research Institute at the Edwards Cancer Center has developed an assay (ChemoIDSM) that measures the sensitivity of tumors to chemotherapy drugs. He says the work funded through this grant will provide information about how lung cancer cells respond to specific types, doses and combinations of drug therapies.

Claudio says, “Our model concentrates on recent discoveries that most tumors are derived from a small number of highly resistant cancer cells having stem cell properties, called cancer stem cells. By recognizing the existence of cancer stem cells, we have taken an important step toward understanding this complex disease.

“Once we have identified the cancer stem cells from patient tumor biopsies, we know how to identify most effective chemotherapy drugs that are already part of the standard of care. Our assay technology has particular value because it can help to determine the most effective drug for a patient’s tumor based on results from an in vitro chemo sensitivity assay.”

Currently, Claudio is conducting Phase-I clinical trials on lung, breast and brain cancers.

“We know that patients with the same stage and grade of cancer often vary considerably in their response to chemotherapy,” he adds. “Our research will provide information that may allow development of tailored therapies for lung cancer, resulting in more effective treatment strategies and better clinical outcomes in the very near future.”

Xie and Claudio both intend to use their findings from these awards as springboards to apply for larger federal grants for related research.

Dr. John M. Maher, vice president for research at Marshall, says this “seeding effect” is one of the emphases of this grant program.

“These pilot awards are relatively small from a research funding perspective, but they allow recipients to test their ideas and generate concrete results as the basis for proposals to the National Institutes of Health’s large grant programs,” Maher said. “It’s not unusual for collaborative projects like these to lead to multimillion dollar awards down the road, after the initial results show significant promise.”

The CTSA partnership between Marshall and UK supports scientists in Marshall’s clinical research program, training fellowships and early stage clinical research trials. The collaboration also gives Marshall investigators access to the expertise and resources at UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and opportunities to apply for significant research grants accessible only through the CTSA program.

Biomedical Sciences students recognized at international science meeting

M. Allison Wolf, Ph.D. candidateHUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two Marshall University students received special recognition for their research at this year’s international Experimental Biology conference held April 21-25 in San Diego.

M. Allison Wolf, a biomedical sciences doctoral candidate from Parkersburg, received first place in her group in a poster competition held as part of the conference’s Diet and Cancer mini-symposium. The mini-symposium was funded by the American Society of Nutrition.

Wolf’s presentation focused on her research on the anticancer effects of isothiocyanates—a natural compound extracted from cruciferous vegetables—on head and neck cancer. Her work shows the compound both inhibits head and neck metastasis and greatly increases sensitivity to chemotherapy in therapy-resistant head and neck cancers. Wolf works in the lab of Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, an associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Surgery at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Wolfe said she gained a great deal from the experience of attending the program and presenting her work.

“I really enjoyed this conference, particularly the Nutrition and Cancer Research Interest group, because it allowed me to be surrounded by people in my field,” she said. “Discussing my research with others also interested in or working on isothiocyanates gave me some promising future directions to pursue.”

Aaron Dom, a first-year MUSOM student and graduate of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate ProgramIn addition, Aaron M. Dom, a first-year medical school student from Wellersburg, Pa., was invited to do a special oral “blitz” presentation about his research on how a synthetic drug called MG624 can prevent new blood vessel growth in small cell lung cancer and could potentially serve as a therapy for the disease. Dom was invited to present by the Blood Vessel Club of the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP). ASIP held its annual meeting in conjunction with the Experimental Biology conference. The club sponsors the short oral presentations to present exciting new vascular biology research and to give audience members an opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions about the research.

Dom, who is the president of the medical school’s Class of 2015, did the research in the lab of Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacol­ogy, Physiology and Toxicology.

He said of the experience, “Our lab is honored that I was selected to present at this special session, and we were excited to share some of the work that we are doing here at the medical school. Experiences like these—in both helping with this research and in presenting at and attending a conference of this size—have helped me gain a greater appreciation for research in medicine.”

Nearly 14,000 scientists and exhibitors representing academic institutions, government agencies, non-profit organizations and private corporations attend the annual Experimental Biology meeting to share information about recent developments in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, nutrition and pharmacology.

Dr. Hardman to be featured in an NIH newsletter

W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D.A study by Dr. W. Elaine Hardman has been selected to be featured in Nutrition Frontiers, a quarterly publication of the Nutritional Science Research Group (NSRG) of the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI is a subsection of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The electronic newsletter presents research that links diet to tumor behavior and cancer prevention. Each issue highlights two feature publications, chosen on the basis of innovation, scientific merit, and potential impact on public health. Feature studies have also been funded at least in part by the NSRG.

Dr. Hardman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology and researches within the Cancer Biology research cluster. Her study is entitled “Dietary Walnut Suppressed Mammary Gland Tumorigenesis in the C(3)1 Tag Mouse.” This study was published last year in  Nutrition and Cancer.

Congratulations, Dr. Hardman!

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio explores gene therapy ‘cocktail’ for feline fibrosarcoma

Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D., Ph.D.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A team of researchers led by a Marshall University faculty member has found that a gene therapy “cocktail” may hold the key to treating feline fibrosarcoma—an aggressive type of cancer that affects thousands of cats in the U.S. each year. Current therapies for the disease are often ineffective for long-term tumor eradication.

The research was conducted by Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Surgery at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and colleagues from the McKown Translational Research Institute at the school of medicine, the university’s Department of Biology, the Martin Veterinary Clinic in Ashland, Ky., and the University of L’Aquila in Italy.

According to Claudio, there are two types of feline fibrosarcomas. The most common type has been linked to the use of vaccines administered to prevent rabies and feline leukemia, and occurs at the site of the injection. The second type appears to occur spontaneously, without any known external cause.

The study at Marshall focused on the more rare, non-vaccination site fibrosarcomas, which have been found to be associated with genetic alterations. It seemed a natural fit for Claudio, whose research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms governing the growth of cancers to help develop new strategies for treatment.

“Gene therapy, which we study in my lab, uses genetic and cell-based technologies to treat disease,” he said. “Essentially, we were able to develop a cocktail of adenoviruses carrying functional therapeutic proteins that can be used to eliminate this deadly disease.”

Claudio pointed out that more studies need to be done to determine if his lab’s findings could also be applicable to cases of vaccine-induced fibrosarcomas.

The research was published yesterday in the journal PLoS ONE. The full article, “Targeting a newly established spontaneous feline fibrosarcoma cell line by gene transfer,” is available online at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037743.

Claudio is in Italy this week to present three invited lectures about his research. He will be speaking at the National Cancer Institute and the CEINGE Institute in Naples, and at the meeting “Fragment of history:  Seminar on the oral medicine of the past and of the future” in Sorrento.

For more information, contact Claudio at claudiop@marshall.edu or 304-696-3516.

Ph.D. candidate Johannes Fahrmann helps raise over $18,000 to fight cancer

Johannes Fahrmann, GSO Vice PresidentHere at the BMS Graduate Program, it is not just professors who make the headlines. Last week it was announced that our own Johannes Fahrmann, a Ph.D. candidate and Vice-President of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Organization (GSO), organized an event that raised nearly $18,000 for the American Cancer Society.

The event, “GRΣΣKS AGAINST CANCER,” was a coordinated effort between Marshall’s Relay-For-Life, the GSO and the Marshall Greek Community. It was one of the biggest collaborative efforts ever to take place between Marshall University student organizations to raise money for a local charity. 

More than 600 Marshall students were involved, and Johannes hopes that the media exposure this event receives will help motivate others to join the fight against cancer.

The funds will be used at the local level to fund future research projects and to assist with patient care. The majority of the money will stay in Huntington and also benefit the surrounding counties.

In addition to serving as Vice-President of the GSO, Johannes is currently the Community Service and Philanthropy Alumni Advisor for Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. He has been a member of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity since 2005 and held numerous positions in the organization. He has also served as president of Marshall University’s Relay-For-Life and still actively participates in the organization’s local functions.

The event is Johannes’s brainchild and something that he has wanted to do for a long time. He originally pitched the idea to the Greek advisors at Marshall and then brought the idea to the entire Greek Community. The competition kicked off February 8th and ran for two months. The winning fundraising team received a flat screen TV donated by the GSO.

At the culmination of the event, Johannes said, “When I originally presented this idea, I would have never imagined that it would have been so successful. Today we, the Greek Community, showed our loved ones and friends who have had or are currently battling cancer that we will fight by their side, that we will fight cancer and that we will win! I am forever grateful to the Greek Community and participating parties. This was truly a powerful statement on behalf of the Greek Community and Marshall University.”

Congratulations, Johannes!

Drs. Claudio and Dasgupta to lead sessions at bioscience conferences

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University cancer researchers Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio and Dr. Piyali Dasgupta have been invited to lead sessions at two upcoming international conferences.

Claudio, who is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, will lead a session, “Cancer Biology and Therapy,” as part of the World Molecular & Cell Biology Online Conference later this month.

The conference will feature more than 60 professors and researchers giving oral presentations during 14 sessions spread over three days.

Claudio, who directs a laboratory in the new Charles H. McKown, M.D., Translational Genomic Research Institute at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center, will also give a talk, “Developing an Effective Targeted Gene Therapy System for Prostate Cancer with the Potential to Translate from the Laboratory to the Clinic,” during the program.

Research in Claudio’s lab focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms governing the development of cancers to help develop new strategies for treatment.
Dasgupta, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacol­ogy, Physiology and Toxicology, will co-chair a minisymposium titled “Modeling Cancer: Biological and Therapeutic Implications” at the Experimental Biology Conference to be held in San Diego in April.

The annual conference draws more than 14,000 scientists and exhibitors from universities, government agencies, private corporations and non-profit organizations.

Dasgupta’s research examines how the components of tobacco can promote the progression of lung cancer. In 2011, she was recognized with the university’s “John and Frances Rucker Graduate Advisor Award.”

For more information, contact Claudio at (304) 696-3516 or claudiop@marshal.edu, or Dasgupta at (304) 696-3612 or dasgupta@marshall.edu.

MU, WVU, business officials gather for Bioscience Summit

The following article was taken from the website of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. It highlights the work of many of the professors researching in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Marshall University.


Dr. Nalini SantanamCHARLESTON - There is no shortage of exciting research going on in the laboratories at Marshall University. Scientists and technicians from this region and from around the world have converged at Marshall to do research on topics such as heart disease, cancer and many others. Their research might one day save a life, or at least make someone’s life better.Their work might not be easy for the layperson to understand, but university and business officials are working diligently to help ensure the work West Virginia’s scientists are doing also results in three simple words: dollars and cents.

The economic potential for bioscience research in West Virginia is still hard to grasp, but there is a lot happening already and much optimism for the future.

“We are looking at a pipeline of commercial opportunities coming out of research being done in West Virginia,” said John Maher, vice president for research at Marshall University.

Officials from Marshall, West Virginia University and several business related to the bioscience industry gathered last week for the Second Annual West Virginia Bioscience Summit, held Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel in Charleston.

“This conference is a unique opportunity for people interested in the biosciences to get together and get an update on the status of the industry over the last year,” said Derek Gregg, CEO of Vandalia Research here in Huntington and chairman of BioWV.

The summit featured presentations from West Virginia University, Marshall, Mountwest Community & Technical College, Vandalia Research, Protea, TRAX Biodiscovery, and others to talk about what their organizations have accomplished over the past year.

“This also allows new collaborations and partnerships to be developed,” Gregg said. “Additionally, we had substantial representation from out-of-state organizations looking for new partners and opportunities.”

The biosciences in West Virginia are growing rapidly and the state’s credibility is increasing in the United States and around the world, Gregg said.

“We are spinning out new enterprises, and some of those enterprises are raising capital and hiring people,” he said. “Protea was recently recognized world-wide as having one of the top 10 innovations of 2011. They now employee over 50 people.”

Four companies are now being housed and supported at Vandalia Research’s facility in Huntington, including Progenesis, Maven Analytical and Parabon Nanolabs. These companies sell to pharmaceutical, chemical and diagnostic companies around the world, Gregg said.

Marshall has a lot of exciting research under way right now, said Dr. Richard Niles, senior associate dean for Research and Graduate Education at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Here are some examples:

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta is looking at lung cancer and at how capsaicin, the hot stuff in chili peppers, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells in animals.

Dr. Nalini Santanam is looking at the effects of age and gender on the fat around the heart, and at oxidative stress in endometriosis.

Dr. Eric Blough of the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems has 16 different projects going on.

Dr. Jingwei Xie is working with glass tubes for bone tissue engineering.

Dr. Hongwei Yu is working on genetic regulation of biofilm formation by pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that can cause disease in animals.

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio is doing cancer research that involves gene therapy using microbubbles for delivery of a virus.

Niles is co-founder with Yu on the biotech business Progenesis, which provides natural, biodegradable polymers for industrial and medical applications through genetic engineering of bacteria. He talked about his experience of starting a biotech business at Wednesday’s Summit.

The universities are working to help others make discoveries and translate them into businesses as well. And the state is helping.

Both Marshall and WVU have received state funding for research through the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, providing $35 million to WVU and $15 million to Marshall for research, provided they come up with a match. WVU has reached its goal and Marshall has $9.4 million secured in gifts and pledges and the potential to reach, or go beyond, its goal very shortly, Maher said.

The universities also have attracted a lot of federal grant funding, all of which rolls over in the local economies as it provides high-paying jobs that attract scientists to the community.

Also in Huntington, Mountwest Community and Technical College is hard at work training students to become biological technicians, environmental science and environmental protection technicians, biomedical laboratory technicians and health technicians, said Jean Chappel, dean of Allied Health at MCTC.

It has a state-of-the-art lab where they can learn molecular diagnostics, tissue culturing, electrophoresis and use a digital fluorescent microscope.

MCTC also works on community outreach, not only targeting science teachers but high school and middle school students. It has a camp where “they’re isolating DNA just like they do on CSI,” Chappel said.

Over the course of one week, students’ aspirations might change from working a minimum wage job to becoming a PhD scientist, she said.

The college wants to help the state have “a well-rounded, educated workforce that wants to stay right here,” Chappel said.

It’s great to see several different parties working toward the same goal, said Laura Gibson, deputy director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and a professor at WVU.

“The greatest measure of our success is really how we partner,” she said.

Capital formation, attraction and retention of talent, and community development are focus areas for Bio West Virginia in the coming years, Gregg said.

“Incentivizing investment in this area is critical,” he said, “Nearly all of our neighboring states have a program or programs for stimulating investment in high-technology, high-growth, high-RISK businesses to stimulate economic development. West Virginia has had programs in the past that were successful in helping companies raise capital, such as the High Growth Business Investment Tax Credit.

“BioWV is strongly encouraging the renewal of this and other programs that can help companies transition from the campus to the market.”

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta to chair a special session at Experimental Biology 2012

Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.Dr. Piyali Dasgupta has been invited to chair a special session at the Experimental Biology 2012 conference in San Diego. The minisymposium that she will be leading is entitled “Modeling Cancer: Biological and Therapeutic Implications.”

The invitation to chair the special session came from the Director of the Division of Experimental Pathology for the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP). Dr. Dasgupta is a member of the ASIP and has regularly presented at Experimental Biology over the past few years, including several oral seminar presentations. Experimental Biology is an annual meeting that draws almost 14,000 scientists and exhibitors. Scientists attending represent universities, academic institutions, government agencies, private corporations, and non-profit organizations. Participating societies include the ASIP, the American Association of Anatomists (AAA), the American Physiological Society (APS), the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), and others.Dr. Dasgupta is Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacol­ogy, Physiology, and Toxicology. She was named “Outstanding Graduate Faculty Advisor of 2011” at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Her research examines the effects of nicotine (the active component of cigarettes) in regulating cellular responses, such as programmed cell death and cell growth, in the context of lung cancer.

Being asked to chair a session at such a prestigious conference is quite an honor. Congratulations, Dr. Dasgupta!

Meet the new faculty: Dr. Emine Koc

Dr. Emine Koc, Associate Professor, Biochemistry and MicrobiologyDr. Emine Koc Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Microbiology

Education B.S. (Chemistry/Biochemistry), Ege University, Turkey M.S. (Biochemistry), Ege University, Turkey Ph.D. (Chemistry/Biochemistry), New Mexico State UniversityResearchDr. Koc’s research examines the role mitochondria play in aging, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, obesity, and cancer. Because of their central role in energy metabolism, it is becoming more apparent that mitochondria are contributing factors in these processes/diseases. In mammals, mitochondria are responsible for providing over 90% of the energy in the form of ATP, which is generated by the process of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). Mitochondria have their own 16.5 kb circular genome and translation machinery/ribosomes essential for the synthesis of 13 essential proteins of the OXPHOS complexes. The mammalian mitochondrial ribosome (55S) is composed of ~80 mitochondrial ribosomal proteins (MRPs), about half of which have homologs in bacterial ribosomes. Although many of the maternally-inherited mitochondrial disorders result from mutations in mitochondrial DNA, alterations in expression levels and mutations of MRPs also affect mitochondrial protein synthesis and cell growth. Indeed, there is growing evidence suggesting the involvement of MRPs in various disease states, apoptosis, and cancer. Clearly, changes in the expression of MRPs influence mitochondrial metabolism and alter the balance between apoptosis and tumor formation due to the changes in energy production.

Dr. Koc’s multidisciplinary research takes advantage of biochemical, molecular and cell biological, and mass spectrometry-based proteomics technologies. Using this “systems biology” approach, her laboratory has paved the way to study mitochondrial translation by identifying all the protein components of the ribosome and translation initiation factor 3 (mtIF3) in mammalian mitochondria. More recently, they have determined the modification of MRPs by phosphorylation and acetylation at steady-state levels using mass spectrometry-based proteomics. Based on these observations, they have postulated that the mitochondrial translation machinery is regulated by post-translational modifications (PTMs) as NAD+ and ATP levels regulate the activities of many other mitochondrial enzymes involved in oxidative phosphorylation.

Dr. Koc’s current research interests are all integrative and are aimed at determining how components of mitochondrial translation/ribosomes affect oxidative phosphorylation and apoptosis in normal and disease conditions. As her research unveils more about the regulatory roles of MRPs and their PTMs, new strategies will be devised to manipulate mitochondrial function/dysfunction in metabolic diseases, cancer, and aging.

Teaching

In Fall 2012, Dr. Koc will team-teach Molecular Basis of Medicine and Foundations of Biomedical Science.

Service

Dr. Koc serves as an ad hoc grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Army Research Office. She also serves as a manuscript reviewer for several journals, including Biochemistry, the EMBO Journal (European Molecular Biology Organization), EMBO Reports, Experimental Cell Research, Human Molecular Genetics, Mitochondrion, PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology, Plant Biology, Plant Cell, and Plant Physiology.

Dr. Koc is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, and the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

Contact Info

Telephone: (304) 696-3680
Email: koce@marshall.edu

Kathleen Brown to present in special session at Experimental Biology 2012

 

Kathleen "Katie" Brown, Ph.D. studentKathleen “Katie” Brown has been selected to present a poster at the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) Annual Meeting at the Experimental Biology 2012 in San Diego. She will present her research at a special session entitled Highlights: Graduate Student Research in Pathology. The session will be held Saturday, April 21st. The ASIP seeks to promote basic and translational research into experimental pathology, and this special session features pathology-focused graduate student research. Sessions such as this allow faculty and students to meet and experience a variety of research interests.

Katie researches in the laboratory of Marshall’s School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences professor and researcher, Dr. Piyali Dasgupta. Her poster is entitled “The alpha7-nicotinic receptor antagonist induces robust apoptosis in human SCLC.” The alpha-7 nicotinic receptor (a7 nAChR) is a subtype of this group of receptors. These receptors can block apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Activation of these nicotinic receptors, such as in exposure to cigarette smoke, in human small cell lung cancer (SCLC) can allow cancerous cells to survive and reproduce. Antagonizing these receptors may allow the body to more adequately eliminate such cancerous cells. These receptors also have been found to be the main type of nicotinic receptor in charge of angiogenesis, or growth of new blood cells. Cancer cannot thrive or spread without an adequate blood supply, making angiogenesis an important issue for cancer treatment.

Congratulations to Katie and Dr. Dagupta’s lab for receiving this honor!

Dr. W. Elaine Harman featured in the Parthenon

The Marshall University student newspaper, the Parthenon, has run a feature article on Dr. W. Elaine Hardman in its March 10, 2011 issue. The article highlights Dr. Hardman’s education, research, and life story. The full text of the piece can be found below and on the Parthenon Website.


W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D.Elaine Hardman was at Cabell Huntington Hospital one day picking up blood samples to test while carrying a bag of toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste.

“What are you doing with that?” asked Theodore Witte, Hardman’s research assistant and part-time doctoral student in the biomedical sciences program at Marshall University.

Witte said she saved them from all the hotels she has stayed at and gives them to the women’s shelter.

“How many people do you see doing that?” Witte said. “She doesn’t even consider herself decent; she just is.”

Hardman is the associate professor for the department of biochemistry and microbiology at Marshall and has been at Marshall for five years.

“We were very fortunate to recruit her to Marshall,” said Richard Niles, senior associate dean for research and graduate programs.

Niles met Hardman when they first worked together a couple years ago in the same study section for the American Institutes for Cancer Research. After working with Hardman, he encouraged her to apply for the open position available at Marshall.

“I knew what I was getting myself into before I applied for the job,” Hardman said.

Philippe Georgel, associate professor for biological sciences, said he met Hardman at her interview. He said she was very professional, but his first impression was that she was very quiet.

“I realized there is a lot of energy under that calm surface,” Georgel said. “She is extremely energetic and I think she is one of those researchers who thinks if there is something that can help and benefit others, she will do her best to include other people in her research and in her success.”

Hardman has been researching the subjects of nutrition and cancer for the past 20 years.

Hardman served six years as a member of the National Institutes of Health study section and spent five years on the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation study section.

Some of her earlier research was on the effects of dietary fiber on colon cancer. Now she is studying the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on various cancers, including lung, prostate, breast and colon.

Hardman said her passion for science began in junior high school. She grew up in a small town in the backwoods area of Dicey County, Fla., and always found some interest in science.

She said she asked her mom and dad for a chemistry set, but instead she received a microscope.

However, there was a dilemma.

“At the time I was growing up, what did a girl who liked science do?” Hardman said. “Maybe I could be a nurse or a science teacher, but I finally realized I wanted to be a researcher and I didn’t have a clue how to get there.”

Hardman said the only thing she thought of was to take all the science she could in high school.

By her junior year, she had taken all the science and math courses her high school provided. She decided to go to junior college and ended up graduating a year early from high school.

Within 15 months at junior college in Florida, Hardman completed her two years and went to the University of Florida. Then, seven months later, she finished her junior year at the university and was 18 years old.

She then married and had a family.

“I always knew I was still going to finish college,” Hardman said.

Hardman said she believes her marriage came at the right time.

“It worked for me,” Hardman said. “It enabled me to focus on raising my children when I was young and had more energy. It has also given me enough time at a later time in my life to get back into science and focus on it.”

The family moved to Montgomery, Ala., at the time her youngest of two children, Don, entered preschool. Hardman said then was the perfect time to go back to school and finish her degree.

Auburn University had just started a clinical laboratory, medical technology course, and Hardman said she was interested in it. She went to the department chair and asked what she should do in the field of science. He suggested she enroll in the new technology course.

She said she realized that, even though it was a delightful experience, she could not stand the idea of doing the same type of work every day for the rest of her career.

Her family moved again to San Antonio, Texas, where Hardman found a part-time job at the Cancer Research Therapy Center as a medical technologist.

“I was working with cancer patients,” Hardman said. “I was reading their blood smears, learning about their cancers and learning about their treatment.”

At the time her oldest child, Sharon, entered college, Hardman said she heard about a full-time position as a research assistant available at the University of Texas Science Center.

Hardman said she was ready for a full-time job and started working hard at it. Two years into the position, she said she practically ran the project the center was working on.

Again, however, Hardman made the decision to go back to school and further her education. This time she applied for graduate school at the University of Texas and finished her doctoral degree in cell biology in two years and three months.

“Most students work at it for five to six years,” Hardman said. “But I had already been working on it in the lab for two years.”

As a graduate student, she received her first grant funded by the American Institute for Cancer Research and a pre-doctoral grant. She has also received funding from the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health for her research throughout the years.

“Things have fallen into place for me,” Hardman said. “Partly because I was ready for the next step and the next step would come at the time I was ready for it.”

Out of the lab, Hardman can be found cross-country skiing, around campus or in the park, according to some of her students.

“Whenever there is enough snow, she will go do that,” said Anne Silvis, a biomedical sciences doctoral candidate for cancer biology from Hurricane, W.Va. “She is very adventurous and she is going to do whatever she wants to do and she really doesn’t care what people are going to think. She really enjoys life.”

Hardman said she was once a Girl Scout and likes to help with teaching young girls how to white water raft. She also said she likes to stay active, and her students seem to be a little jealous of that.

“Well despite her age, she is perhaps the most active person I know and would probably put me to shame in terms of physical health, and I consider myself in pretty good shape,” said Johannes Fahrmann, a biomedical sciences doctoral student from Dresden, Germany.

Hardman even plans surprise trips for her students. Witte said Hardman would take her lab members on a boat ride for lab meetings.

“Unbelievably, you think that you’re going into a scary lab meeting and you find that you’re going on a boat ride and she is making upside-down cake,” Witte said. “The trick is that she grandmothers us into performing, so you can’t let her down.”

Many of the students interviewed said she was a wonderful role model to them. Silvis said she is inspired by Hardman’s success in the field of science as a woman who has a family.

“She is very important to me having a family myself,” Silvis said. “It’s very comforting. And I think for women to see that, even though she has a family and kids in graduate school, they can accomplish as much as she has in her professional life and still have a family life.”

Hardman said she hopes she is always directing her students in the right direction but may not think she is necessarily the right leader for the job.

“I have always thought of myself as fairly shy, but other people say that I’m a pretty strong leader,” Hardman said. “I don’t quite see that.”

“Things have fallen into place for me; partly because I was ready for the next step and the next step would come at the time I was ready for it.”

-Elaine Hardman

Dr. W. Elaine Hardman honored at “Women in Medicine and Science” luncheon

Dr. W. Elaine Hardman of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine was honored on February 16 at a luncheon hosted by the Women in Medicine and Science program. The program is hosted about four times a year and features guests who speak to a collective group of women about their achievements. Dr. Hardman is an Associate Professor for the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology.

Dr. Hardman was recognized for her achievements throughout her career and was asked to speak about her success. “She is a very accomplished researcher, not only in the area, but nationally,” said Professor Darshana Shah, the School of Medicine’s Associate Dean for Professional Development in Medical Education. “So I think that it would be a great opportunity for young people to look up to her and to see how she has gone the path she did.” Professor Shah is in charge of the program and said that its purpose was for students to learn by hearing her success story.

Professor Hardman has been working in the area of nutrition and cancer research for about 20 years. Currently, her research on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on breast cancer has received six externally funded grants, including large grants form the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. “She has a love of knowledge and she imparts that onto her students,” said Anne Silvis, a graduate student and Ph.D candidate for cancer biology. “She gets them excited about research and excited about the world of science.”

As she spoke to the collective group of women, who were not only graduate students but also professors, she said that she always knew what she wanted to do with her life, and that was science. Professor Hardman completed three years of her undergraduate degree by the time she turned 18 and then married. She raised her family and went back to school to finish her degree and later earned her Master’s. While she was a graduate student, she received her first funding grant and has received funding ever since.

“There is always an overriding importance for what she does and that is always apparent when you are talking to her about anything in her research,” Silvis said.

One of the graduate students in attendance said she found her story to be not only interesting, but also inspiring. “I have three young children myself and had also married young and returned to school,” said Tamara Trout, a graduate student in the Medical Sciences Program. “I always thought ‘How am I going to do it?’ But then you meet someone like Professor Hardman and it shows that you can do it.”

Chrystal Phillips can be contacted at phillips152@marshall.edu. The original story can be read on the website for Marshall University’s Student Newspaper, “The Parthenon.”