The Pelotonia Graduate Fellowship Program provides two-year research fellowships to the best and brightest Ohio State University graduate students who want to help cure cancer. Cancer is a complex disease, and curing it will take a multidisciplinary effort. So no matter what their field of study, from traditional scientific fields to fields such as business, history and engineering, all Ohio State graduate students may apply.

Graduate students do a significant amount of work in most labs. Ohio State has many graduate students who are working in the broad field of cancer research, but many of them are not working on independent research projects. Receiving a Pelotonia Graduate Fellowship gives these students the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the field of cancer research, and to develop and work on their own independent projects.

To date, 114 graduate fellows have been funded. These students come from very diverse graduate programs—from Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry to Biomedical Engineering and Psychology—and are working on diverse projects, including development of new bioinformatics algorithms that predict treatment responses for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), to learning how black raspberries can impact and prevent prostate cancer.

Competition for Pelotonia Graduate Fellowships is fierce. Each year approximately 75 graduate applications are submitted. Each application is critically reviewed by members of the Pelotonia Fellowship Committee. Because of the prestigious nature of these awards, many students have reported that receiving a Pelotonia Fellowship has distinguished them from their peers when going on to do postdoctoral research or moving on to faculty positions.

Graduate Fellows are paid a competitive annual stipend (~$25K), and Ohio State’s Graduate School has generously agreed to pay their fees and tuition.


To be eligible, an applicant must:

  • Be an outstanding Ohio State graduate student
  • Have passed their candidacy exam before funding begins
  • Propose a cancer-related project
  • Participate in Pelotonia

2016 Graduate Student Pelotonia Fellows

Amruta Ashtekar


Project – Role of mitochondrial metabolism and tumor suppressor SDHD in Thyroid Cancer.

Summary – Evaluate how thyroid tumor cells use energy which is different from normal tissue. Learn how mutation in a gene called SDHD causes thyroid cancer and strategies on treating the resulting tumors. This information will be useful to improve therapy for thyroid cancer.

Andrea Patterson


Project – Stromal paracrine signaling in the mechanism of mammary reprogramming following in utero exposure to BPA.

Summary – We are mapping out the changes induced by in utero BPA exposure in different breast cell types. By studying these changes that occur in the different cells, we can identify cancer risk in the human population, manage alternative compounds in our environment and improve cancer prevention.

Bonnie Harrington


Project – Enhancing Antitumor Immunity for Treatment of Mantle Cell Lymphoma.

Summary – In this proposal, we will evaluate the immune system health of mantle cell lymphoma patients. We will also investigate a novel class of drugs to treat this cancer called immune checkpoint inhibitors. Immune checkpoint inhibitors work by redirecting the body’s own immune response to kill cancer cells.

Bradley Cotten


Project – Bioavailability and Activity of Dietary Flavonoids to Alter Cancer Cachexia in a Mouse Model.

Summary – Evaluate the ability for plant-derived compounds to prevent skeletal muscle wasting induced by the presence of tumor cells and cancer treatment. This will provide valuable insight to potential dietary interventions to improve cancer therapy.

Chi-Ling Chiang


Project – A Microchannel Electroporation Array Enables Identification and Characterization of Leukemic Stem Cells in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

Summary – Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common leukemia in western adults, remains incurable which could be attributed to ineffective targeting of early progenitors of CLL or the putative leukemic stem cell. To study these rare cell population, we are using a newly developed microchannel electroporation technology to deliver molecular probes to identify CLL initiating cells by unique surface and intracellular markers, and interrogate their leukemic ability and resistance to therapeutical drugs.

Christina Knippler


Project – Characterization of the BRAF-PAK Complex in Thyroid Cancer.

Summary – The goal of my work is to determine how two cancer-causing proteins, called BRAF and PAK, interact with other proteins in thyroid cancers. By identifying these other proteins, my research may provide new targets and strategies for treating thyroid cancers.

Daniel Dayeh


Project – SAPHIRE: a novel method for sequence-specific targeting of cancer-mediating RNA.

Summary – RNA is a diverse biological molecule that participates in a wide variety of cellular processes, including the development of cancer. The methods available to study RNA have not adequately developed to keep up with our growing interest in how these molecules contribute to the onset and spread of cancer. Here, we are developing a novel molecular scissors capable of selectively cutting any specific RNA in the cell in order to evaluate the effects of its absence.

David Frankhouser


Project – Dietary n-3 Fatty Acids and Breast Cancer Prevention - Effects on DNA Methylation in Breast Tissue and Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells.

Summary – We are working to identify the measurable effects produced by high doses of a common dietary fat source called omega-3 fatty acids. Establishing the effects of this treatment will aid the investigation of its potential to prevent breast cancer development in the subtypes with the worst outcome.

Grant Foglesong


Project – Leptin Mediates the Anti-Breast Cancer Effects of Environmental Enrichment in Mice

Summary – This project will investigate the cancer mitigating effects of improving metabolism via an enriched environment, while also considering the effects of genetic as well as diet-induced forms of obesity. By exploring the relationship between cancer and body weight we will ultimately enhance therapeutic strategies to treat or even prevent obesity and associated cancer types.

Kara Braunreiter


Project – Understanding regulation of oscillatory gene expression and its role in differentiation

Summary – Examine the regulation of genes that are important for cancer stem cell maintenance to better understand how the cancer stem cells evade current treatment therapies.

Luke Russell


Project – Characterization of the oncolytic and immune effects of RAPTOR: a novel oncolytic Herpes Simplex Virus 1 expressing PTEN-L for glioblastoma therapy in vitro and in vivo

Summary – The goal of my project is to explore a new cancer-killing virus for brain cancer therapy. The novel virus turns cancer cells into factories that produce a “tumor suppressor” protein that slows tumor growth and may improve the potency of an anti-cancer immune response. The aim of my project is to figure out how this virus destroys tumor cells and how it affects the immune response to brain cancer.

Samantha Ohmer


Project – The effect of pregnancy on hepatitis C liver disease and cancer risk

Summary – We are interested in studying the immune response to the hepatitis C virus. Without treatment more than 75% of people infected will go on to have chronic infection and be at risk for progressive liver disease and cancer. We hope that by understanding how some people are able to effectively fight the virus that we will be able to identify ways to improve vaccines for hepatitis C and other chronic infections that can lead to cancer.

Tasha Wilkie


Project – The Role of Chronic Inflammatory Environment in promoting Breast Cancer Progression

Summary – Evaluate how inflammation resulting from infection in the mammary tissue help tumors and immune cells promote breast cancer progression.

Yajun Liu


Project – Regulation of the membrane binding of F-BAR protein Rga7 by the novel protein Rng10 during cytokinesis

Summary – Investigate how the novel protein Rng10 regulates the membrane binding and functions of protein Rga7 during cell division. This study provides insight into how successful cell division can prevent cancer initiation and identifying potential therapeutic drug targets.

Yao Wan


Project – Novel functions of actin cytoskeleton and mitochondrial proteins in splicing of tRNAs

Summary – Study the unexpected and novel functions of two groups of proteins: actin cytoskeleton components and mitochondrial outer membrane proteins in transfer ribonucleic acid (tRNA) biology. This study could lead to a better understanding of how the cells maintain proper levels and processing of tRNAs to prevent development of tumors.

Yo-Ting Tsai


Project – In Vivo Impact of BRAFV600E on Tumor-Mediated Immune Suppression

Summary – Characterize immune defects in a mouse model of B-cell leukemia with BRAFV600E expression, define the mechanism of this immune suppression in T-cells and myeloid cells; and utilize this model to determine if BRAFV600E inhibition can reverse tumor-induced immune suppression in BRAF-mutant B-cell leukemia. This information will be used to improve therapy for BRAF-mutant B-cell leukemia, a subset of incurable cancer of the blood.

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