What is Canalization?

The following was taken from WV Public Broadcasting
by Clark Davis

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Marshall University professor Vincent Sollars recently received a $432,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute for his unique cancer research. It involves something called canalization.

Click this picture to hear Clark Davis interview Dr. Vincent Sollars about his research.

Dr. Sollars is an associate professor in the Marshall University School of Medicine. He’s taking an unusual approach to find better treatments for cancer.

“In the end what we’re looking at is making life better for people that have this deadly disease, that’s the main reason I became a scientist,” Sollars said.

The idea of canalization is that as cells develop and mature they become different things.

“As they develop they start as very immature cells that look like each other, and then they mature,” Sollars said. “That process is structured and they’re pushed a long a certain direction like a canal pushes water.”

And he said when that canalization does not work appropriately that is when cancer cells develop. Sollars is examining why some of those cells do not follow the path and end up becoming cancerous. Sollars said that some of the cells will stop listening and cooperating with neighboring cells. That communication with the other cells is necessary for the complex mix that becomes the different cells in our body. When the cells do not listen, bad things happen.

“The loss of this canalization is a force that will allow those cells that are normal to become cancerous, if we understand how that occurs we can develop new chemotherapies,” Sollars said. “If it is truly a force that helps a cancer cell progress we can put breaks on that force.”

Sollars and a team of student researchers will the test the role of canalization in the maturing process of cells and cancer development in mice. They will target leukemia specifically with this grant, but the results can apply to all cancer types. Sollars said most often with cancer research, the examination is of the genes that mutate and become cancerous. His work differs because it looks at the process those individual cells are taking in becoming a normal part of the body or cancer down the road.

“What I’m doing is understanding not a particular gene, but a process,” Sollars said. “So how do cells bring about the changes in these genes, not the specific genes themselves, but the process and so this is a fundamental process is my theory that most cancers use to progress.”

Sollars says ultimately the hope is that if his hypothesis can be proved true, a certain type of chemotherapy could be used in conjunction with the already occurring treatment of leukemia. He says often times the initial treatment of leukemia will seem successful, putting the cancer into remission. But often he said cancer cells will be hiding and growing without the knowledge of the doctor until it’s too late.

Sollars hopes to hire 8 undergraduate and graduate students along with a full-time technician.

Biomedical sciences researcher to present results of clinical trials on personalized chemotherapy

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, a researcher at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, is traveling to Paphos, Cyprus, next month to present his work to personalize chemotherapy for cancer treatment.

Claudio was invited to give the talk at the 5th International Conference on Recent Advances in Health and Medical Sciences, which will be held July 6-12.

He will be discussing the results of clinical trials conducted at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center. The studies tested ChemoID, a cell culture method he developed with colleague Dr. Jagan Valluri to measure the sensitivity of patients’ tumors to chemotherapy treatment for lung, brain/spine and breast cancer.

He says more evaluation of the technology is needed, but preliminary tests on a small number of patients found ChemoID 100 percent accurate in predicting which drug is more effective in treating patients affected by brain cancer if the tumor-initiating cancer stem cells were evaluated.

Claudio“Oncologists every day face many challenges in determining the best course of therapy for an individual cancer patient,” says Claudio. “The basic problem is that patients with similar diagnoses don’t always respond to the same chemotherapy. This technology we have developed could help physicians select the appropriate chemotherapy for an individual patient—giving them an edge in the fight against cancer.”

He says the good news for cancer patients is that ChemoID may make possible personalized treatment by predicting the most effective drug combination to successfully target that specific patient’s cancer—increasing the chance the drugs will work and perhaps reducing side effects by helping the patient avoid unnecessary drugs.

In addition to presenting his own research at the conference, Claudio will be moderating a session, “Advances in Oncology and Anticancer Research. Cancer Pathology.”

Summaries of the research presented at the meeting will be published in the journal Frontiers in Bioscience.

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Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964 (o) www.marshall.edu/murc

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta awarded NIH grant for lung cancer research

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. 

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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

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.

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.