Four University of Houston students working at the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling have taken on research projects to explore different therapies for prostate and breast cancer.
Beating back the overly broad disease simply called cancer has been the stuff of dreams for researchers everywhere. Despite extensive research, the different forms of cancer and the complexity of treatments have made the discovery of an absolute cure difficult.
Jayantha Tennakoon, a graduate biology and biochemistry doctoral candidate, Hanah Do, an undergraduate biology major, Peter Tran, an undergraduate biochemistry major, and Eylem Aydogdu, a recent graduate who now holds a doctorate in biology and biochemistry, have taken up arms against the onslaught of these tumor-related afflictions.
Tennakoon focused his sights on prostate cancer while completing his research in Assistant Professor Daniel Frigo’s lab.
“I research prostate cancer because it is one of the leading causes of death among men throughout the world,” Tennakoon said.
For his research, he won an Outstanding Abstract Award from The Endocrine Society, which recognizes exceptional abstracts submitted for ENDO 2012.
“(I hope to) make original contributions to advance the field of prostate cancer research. Perhaps later, as an independent scientist, (I can) apply the expertise I gain from this lab to address complex problems in development and cancer.”
Tennakoon is happy to know his work has provided his field with valuable insight and possible solutions to fighting this disease, he said.
“The work done so far has provided a novel pathway which may be potentially (explored) through different strategies in the future to reduce the proliferative and survival potential of prostate cancer cells,” Tennakoon said.
Working with Tennakoon in Frigo’s lab are Do and Tran. Both received recognition for their individual works as they were selected for the 2012 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
“My research is about maintaining a drug library of novel molecules and then determining the role and effects of these molecules in contributing to the initiation and development of prostate cancer,” Do said.
“This independent research experience and participation in SURF will provide me with a foundation needed for my senior honors thesis and my future studies in medicine.”
Tran focused his research on specific signaling pathway of an enzyme which is found in both prostate cancer and the human brain.
“While it is found from previous studies that a unique varient of this gene is exppressed in prostate cancer, it it is this unique varent or simply the presence of (the enzyme) that is contributing to the growth and migration of cancer,” Tran said.
“From watching NOVA on PBS as a little child to watching Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel today, I was always interested in the field of science, of how the human body worked.”
Lastly, there is Aydogdu, who became the first out of the 30 enrolled at the CNRCS to receive a doctorate this past spring semester. Her research is aimed at microRNA regulation in both mammary stem cells and breast cancer.
“We aim to answer some questions related to breast cancer by studying breast cancer stem cells and identifying the similarities and differences between cancer cell and stem cells,” Aydogdu said.
Her paper detailing her research was published in Carcinogenesis, a multi-disciplinary journal published by Oxford University Press that centers on cancer research.