May 2, 2019

Symposium showcases Cancer Biology’s ‘dynamic and supportive environment’

The Wayne State University School of Medicine and Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute's Cancer Biology Graduate Program held its ninth annual symposium, spotlighting the program's 26 Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. students, who shared their dissertation projects through six oral presentations presented in the Margherio Family Conference Center and 21 poster presentations presented in the Louis Elliman Building.

Simons Award
Leonard N. Simons Award winner Joshua Heyza is joined by mentor Stephan Patrick, Ph.D., at left, and Larry Matherly, Ph.D.

The student-sponsored symposium, held March 29, provides an opportunity for scientific and social discourse between students and faculty.

"We combined our graduate symposium with our graduate student recruiting day to permit prospective and incoming Ph.D. students a chance to meet current students and faculty and experience the dynamic and supportive environment that constitutes the Cancer Biology Graduate Program,” said program director Larry Matherly, Ph.D., the Eunice and Milt Ring Endowed Chair for Cancer Research and professor of Pharmacology and of Oncology.

Doctoral student Joshua Heyza received the Leonard N. Simons Award for Exemplary Research and Scholarly Achievement.

Heyza is a senior student and will defend his dissertation July 19. He is mentored by Associate Professor Stephan Patrick, Ph.D. Results of the study he presented at the symposium – "Identification and characterization of synthetic viability with ERCC1 deficiency in response to DNA" – have led to the identification of a novel subset of primary tumors deficient in a DNA endonuclease called ERCC1 and subsequent characterization of potential therapeutic strategies for overcoming platinum tolerance, a form of chemotherapy in use since the 1990s but previously disproved as beneficial for patients with lung cancer.

Simons was an industrious advocate for the community, including 50 years working with the Michigan Cancer Foundation and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. To be nominated for the Simons Award, students must have attained Ph.D. candidacy status and have completed at least two years of study toward the doctoral degree in Cancer Biology. His daughter, Mary Lou Zieve, presented the award to Heyza.

New this year, anyone who attended the symposium had the opportunity to vote for a People’s Choice Award. The winner was Niko Moses for “HDAC6 regulates Chk1 stability in response to radiation-induced DNA damage.”

Honors were also given in oral and poster presentation categories. The winners:

Oral Presentation Awards
First Place – Patrick Radler
Second Place – Jordan White

Poster Presentation Awards
First Place – Ethan Brock
Second Place – Joshua Heyza
Third Place – Emily Teslow

The event’s keynote speaker was an alumna of the Cancer Biology Graduate Program. Mary Irwin, Ph.D., earned her doctorate in Pharmacology in 2010. She was supported by the National Cancer Institute’s T32 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Service Research Award Training grant while at WSU, and completed her postdoctoral training at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She works as a pharmacologist reviewer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products.

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