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Markey Research Day highlights breadth, depth of cancer research

May 15, 2024

Graduate student Ibrahim Imam took second place in the basic science poster presentations. 

Researchers present their work at Markey Cancer Center's 14th annual Research Day.

Researchers present their work at Markey Cancer Center's 14th annual Research Day.

The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center’s Research Day held May 10 highlighted the wide scope of cancer research taking place at UK.  

The UK Markey Cancer Center’s reach extends across 11 of UK’s 16 colleges and represents all aspects of cancer research: prevention and control, treatment and clinical care. Sponsored by the Markey Cancer Foundation, the 14th annual event showcased the latest advancements in cancer research from UK faculty members, students and staff across these many disciplines.  

The event also gave researchers the opportunity to share their work and receive feedback from members of the campus community. Over 100 posters were on display from graduate and postdoctoral students, junior researchers and staff. 

Markey Cancer Center director B. Mark Evers, M.D., gave the annual "State of the Cancer Center" address, which highlighted faculty and staff achievements and Markey’s milestone year. Since the last Research Day event, Markey achieved designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center from the National Cancer Institutebroke ground on the new Cancer and Advanced Ambulatory Building and grew by more than 30 cancer researchers. 

“All these milestones are underpinned by the extraordinary work you do, and it is transformative for Kentucky,” said Evers. “From researchers and clinicians to trainees and staff, our team moved the needle closer to our mission for a cancer-free tomorrow. And what better way to showcase some of your notable work than with this our annual Research Day.” 

Faculty presentations were given by Samuel Awuah, Ph.D., an associate professor of chemistry who holds a joint appointment in the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Pharmacy, and Yasminka Jakubek Swartzlander, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical informatics in the College of Medicine.  

The Gilbert H. Friedell, M.D., and Susan B. Lester Memorial Lectures were given by Raymond N. DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center, and Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Epidemiology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and associate director for Population Sciences at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.  

Markey Research Day also features annual awards, including the Markey Women Strong Distinguished Research Award. The $100,000 prize is split between two researchers whose groundbreaking work addresses the cancer burden among women. This year’s award was given to the College of Medicine’s Mautin T. Barry-Hundeyin, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, and Kathleen L. O'Connor, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry.   

The day concluded with an award ceremony. Winners are: 

Faculty Mentorship Award: Mentorship of Trainees: Yosra Helmy, Ph.D. 

Faculty Mentorship Award, Mentorship of Junior Faculty: Ren Xu, Ph.D. 

Trainee Mentorship Award: Caitlyn Smith 

Poster Presentations: 

Graduate Students, Basic Science 

  • 1st place: Courtney Kelson - “Fatty Acid Synthase Enhances Stem-Like Properties of Colorectal Cancer Cells via an Increase in Notum Expression and Secretion”                

  • 2nd place: Ibrahim Imam - “L858R/L718Q and L858R/L792H Mutations of EGFR Inducing Resistance Against Osimertinib by Forming More Hydrogen Bonds: A Molecular Simulation Study” 

  • 3rd place: Sapta Ganguly - “RPS6KB1 is a Critical Target for Overcoming Tumor Lineage Plasticity and Therapy Resistance” 

Graduate Students, Clinical Science 

  • 1st place: Abigayle Feather - “Follow-Up Care among Rural and Urban Cancer Survivors: Parents’ Perceptions of Access and Acceptability” 

  • 2nd place: Ajran Kabir - “Novel Quorum Sensing Inhibitors as Potential Therapeutics for the Control of Non-Typhoidal Salmonella Causing Colon Cancer” 

  • 3rd place: Kahleel Guerrier - “Utilizing Mitochondria Modulating Agents to Sensitize Prostate Cancer to Radiation Treatment” 

Postdocs and Staff, Basic Science 

  • 1st place: Rakshamani Tripathi - “ABL1/2 promotes a pro-tumorigenic microenvironment during BRAFi/MEKi and MEKi resistance in BRAF- and NRAS-mutant melanomas”

  • 2nd place: Garrett Anspach (Overall Winner) - “Integration of Gene and Lipid Profiles in Metabolically Driven Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Tumor and Adjacent Nontumor Tissue” 

  • 3rd place: Michael Buoncristiani - “Core Fucosylation is a Novel Metabolic Vulnerability in MYCN-Amplified Neuroblastomas” 

Postdocs and Staff, Clinical Science 

  • 1st place: Evans Amoah - “Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) Treatment of Synchronous Lung Tumors via Single-Isocenter/Multi-Target (SIMT) Method: Reporting Single-Institutional Clinical Outcomes” 

  • 2nd place: Connie Cao - “A Phase 1 Dose Escalation Study of Lapatinib and Paclitaxel in Recurrent Ovarian Cancer” 

  • 3rd place: Grayson Fuller - “The Effects of Cannabis on Cancer Burden: Protocol Description of Phase I Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind, Randomized Trial”