Research Trainees Awarded Funding Through Pelotonia Fellowship Program

January 09, 2019
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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Five more postdoctoral research trainees have received pilot funding for promising cancer research ideas through the Pelotonia Research Fellowship Program. The ongoing scholarship program is funded by Pelotonia, a grassroots event that has generated more than $184 million for cancer research conducted at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

Since 2010, the Pelotonia Fellowship Program has provided more than $13 million to support the research of more than 475 undergraduate, medical, graduate and postdoctoral scholars working in the labs of cancer faculty mentors. The program offers a variety of experiences, from an eight-week lab experience to multi-year research fellowships.

Winter 2018 fellowship research awardees and projects include:

New Markers of Residual Disease, Drug Resistance

Investigator: Raymond Devine, PhD, of Columbus, Ohio
Mentors: Gregory Behbehani, MD, PhD, and Raj Muthusamy, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program and College of Medicine

Acute myeloid leukemia is the most common form of acute leukemia in adults, yet it continues to have a low cure rate. Research has shown that AML is a genetically complex disease with many different subtypes that oncologists are still working to fully understand. Efforts are underway to identify specific biomarkers for the disease that could help match patients with therapies that target specific genetic mutations. Hypomethylating agents (HMA) are a newer class of treatment drugs that have been effective in about 50 percent of patients who have received this type of treatment. In this study, Devine will conduct studies aimed at understanding why HMA therapy fails in certain patients and to determine if these agents are most effective as single-drug treatments or given in combination with other agents.

Unusual tRNA Structures: Possible Basis for Human Diseases

Investigator: Walter Zahurancik, PhD, of Fairview Park, Ohio
Mentor: Venkat Gopalan, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program and College of Arts & Sciences

Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) are molecules that shuttle amino acids to protein-synthesizing machines called ribosomes. For participation in protein synthesis, however, tRNAs must be trimmed to their mature forms starting from immature precursors. In this study, Zahurancik will use a multi-faceted approach to test the hypothesis that cancer-associated mutations in human mitochondrial tRNAs stabilize unusual tRNA structures and thereby hinder maturation. Overall, his studies seek to broaden our understanding of how mutations in tRNAs could lead to development of a wide variety of human diseases, including cancer, neurodegeneration, hypertension and hearing loss.

“Re-wiring” Androgen Receptor Pathways to Improve Prostate Cancer Treatment

Investigator: Sajad Wani, PhD, of Kashmir, India
Mentor: Moray Campbell, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program and College of Pharmacy

Many advanced-stage prostate cancer patients ultimately stop responding to anti-androgen therapies. Results of several high-profile clinical trials have resulted in combination therapy approaches that suggest that anti-androgen therapies would be more effective if the androgen receptor pathways could be selectively “rewired” to suppress cellular pathways that promote cancer growth. This new study is focused on understanding and therapeutically targeting events that re-wire androgen-receptor signaling and has the potential to correct molecular pathways that could improve and sustain cancer control.

Targeted Therapy for B-cell Lymphoma

Investigator: Giorgia Scapin, PhD, of Vicenza, Italy
Mentor: Dhvanit Shah, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program and College of Medicine

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is an aggressive type of blood cancer and the most common form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. However, about 40 percent of patients with DLBCL relapse or do not respond to the treatments currently available. Research suggests that oncogenic mutations likely cause DLBCL, but it is unknown how metabolites regulate the malignant transformation. In this preclinical study, Scapin will evaluate the direct therapeutic role of a specific molecular pathway ­– regulating mitochondrial metabolism – in regulating blood cell development. The study is expected to advance our knowledge of B-cell lymphoma and establish mitochondrial metabolite and epigenetic mechanisms as potential targeted, effective therapies for B-cell cancers.

New Treatment Targets in Head and Neck Cancer

Investigator: Chenyu Lin, PhD, of Anhui, China
Mentor: Wayne Miles, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program

CRISPR technology is a powerful tool for editing genomes that allows researchers to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. In this study, Lin will use CRISPR technology to screen cellular specific tumorigenesis genes that could be driving head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The study is expected to reveal potential new genomic drivers of HNSCC as well as increase scientific understanding of drug sensitivity/resistance, predict drug response and provide novel therapeutic options.

To learn more about Pelotonia-funded initiatives at the OSUCCC – James, visit


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