April 22, 2024

Student research in the spotlight at Cancer Biology Graduate Program symposium

The Cancer Biology Graduate Program in the Department of Oncology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute held its 13th annual Graduate Research Symposium at the Wayne State University School of Medicine Margherio Family Cancer Center and the Louis M. Elliman Atrium.

Peter Dimitrion won the Leonard N. Simons Award for Exemplary Research and Scholarly Achievement.

The annual Cancer Biology symposium began when the Cancer Biology Graduate Program found a permanent departmental home in the Department of Oncology in 2009. The principal goal of the symposium is to highlight the accomplishments of the program’s M.S., Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. students by giving them opportunities to present their research.

A tradition at the annual event is a presentation by a distinguished alumnus of the Cancer Biology Program. This year’s guest speaker was Stephanie Blocker, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Radiology at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Dr. Blocker gave an inspiring talk about her career trajectory, “A biologist among engineers: Building a home in Duke’s dynamic academic research environment” to attendees at this year’s event.

Each year the Leonard N. Simons Award for Exemplary Research and Scholarly Achievement is presented at the symposium to a Cancer Biology student who has distinguished him- or herself in scholarship and leadership. This year’s Simons Award was awarded to Peter Dimitrion, an M.D./Ph.D. trainee mentored by Qing-Sheng Mi, M.D., Ph.D., an adjunct professor in the Department of Oncology, and the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry.

Dimitrion recently defended his doctoral dissertation, “Epigenetic Regulation of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis Pathophysiology and Microenvironment by HDAC3.”

In 2016, the Leonard N. Simons Award for Exemplary Research and Scholarly Achievement was established in the Cancer Biology Graduate Program. Simons served as the first chair of the board of the Michigan Cancer Foundation (now the Karmanos Cancer Institute) and throughout his life was a passionate supporter of Detroit’s efforts in the fight against cancer. The award pays tribute to Simons and his dedication to excellence in science and education. The Leonard N. Simons Cancer Research Endowment provides funding for the award.

Student Alexis Wilson, pictured with Cancer Biology Graduate Program Director Larry Matherly, Ph.D., was awarded the Mary Lou Zieve Award.

In addition, Alexis Wilson won this year’s Mary Lou Zieve Award for Professional Development. The award is offered annually to a Cancer Biology student to attend a specialized training opportunity through the National Institutes of Health, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, or to attend a specialized scientific conference such as a Gordon Research Conference. Wilson is in the fourth year of her doctoral studies on the tumor microenvironment, discovering druggable targets for metastatic prostate cancer in the bone, and the role of tumor cell-adipocyte crosstalk in prostate cancer progression in bone. She is mentored by Professor of Pharmacology Izabela Podgorski, Ph.D.

This year’s symposium, conducted Feb. 16, included six oral presentations and 18 poster presentations from Cancer Biology graduate students. Best presentations were announced at the end of the event.

Oral Presentation

First place (tie): Alexis Wilson, “Adipocyte exposure modulates the activity of stearoyl-CoA desaturase in metastatic prostate cancer to promote progression in bone”

Mathew Schneider, “Pharmacodynamic Determinants of Antitumor Activity of SHMT2 Inhibitors”

Poster Presentation

First place: Agnes Malysa, “Role of Novel R1 complex in regulating DNA replication”

Second place: Rayane Dennaoui, “Cooperative functions of cytokine signaling through JAK1 and JAK2 in orchestrating postnatal mammary gland development and cancer”

Third place: Sanjeev Ganesh, “Role of ZFHX3 in Endometrial cancer progression”

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