HCRI Celebrates 10th Annual Cancer Research Day

Author: M. Sharon Stack, PhD

What happens when researchers-in-training are unable to present their data to a live audience or to see the results of work performed by their peers for over two years due to a global pandemic?  A very enthusiastic in-person conference!  The 10th Annual Cancer Research Day, held on March 21, 2022 in the Morris Inn at Notre Dame, was marked by record attendance and noticeable enthusiasm from presenters and attendees alike. 

Harper World Cancer Day 3
Harper Cancer Research Day

For the 273 meeting registrants, the morning started with an interactive poster session.  Research results from undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral scholars and technical staff were eagerly presented in poster format by 78 well-prepared investigators.  The three hour session allowed ample time for questions, debate, exchange of ideas, and of course photos! As usual, the judges had a challenging time picking the top posters in each category for the Best Poster awards (listed below). 

Two HCRI faculty members were recognized with oral presentations.  Dr. Laurie Littlepage, Campbell Family Associate Professor of Cancer Research, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, presented the results of her American Cancer Society-sponsored research, discussing breast cancer metastasis to bone.  Our newest faculty affiliate, Dr. Meenal Datta, Assistant Professor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, then highlighted her innovative engineering-based approaches to understanding brain cancer progression.The afternoon began with oral presentations from 15 trainees in three concurrent sessions.  This was followed by a short video on Innovative, Collaborative, and Inclusive Research by Joshua Martin highlighting research progress during the first 10 years of the HCRI.  Dr. Robert Bernhard, the Vice President of Research (VPR) and professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, then provided an overview of the research landscape at Notre Dame during his tenure as VPR.  For his extraordinary service in expanding and shepherding the research enterprise at Notre Dame, Dr. Bernhard was awarded a gold superhero cape emblazoned with “Research is Our Superpower”. 

Harper World Cancer Day 3

Please save the date for the 11th Annual Cancer Research Day, to be held on March 27, 2023.  We are honored to have Dr. Robert Winn, the Director and Lipman Chair in Oncology, Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and University of Notre Dame class of 1987 as the Keynote speaker!Topping the day was a presentation by our distinguished Keynote Speaker Dr. David Tuveson, M.D., Ph.D., the Roy J. Zuckerberg Professor of Cancer Research and the Cancer Center Director at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, who discussed “A roadmap to defeating pancreatic cancer.”  This thought-provoking presentation was ‘salted’ with anecdotes and photos highlighting Dr. Tuveson’s passion for deep sea fishing. Most inspiring, however, was Dr. Tuveson’s interaction throughout the entire day with all of our trainees.  “They’re our future” he explained, “and they’ve taken a big hit during the pandemic.  They need a pep talk to remind them why they started down this path and the discovery that lies ahead”.

Best Poster Award winners:

  • Regan Hines (Undergrad, Vaughan Lab), "Investigating Cellular Senescence as a Novel Treatment for Glioblastoma"
  • Michael Siroky (Undergrad, Stack Lab), "Collagen and Differential Metastasis of Ovarian Cancer in Young and Aged Patients"
  • Joshua Zhang (Undergrad, Awasthi Lab), "Antitumor effects and mechanisms of SOS1 KRAS inhibitors on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in pre-clinical models"
  • Christian Umaña Gamboa (Grad Student, Taylor Lab), "Modulation of Alternative Splicing: Harmonizing Natural Products Chemistry Cancer and Rare Diseases"
  • Simon Weaver (Grad Student, Whelan Lab), "Capillary electrophoresis (CE) fractionation of complex samples in bottom-up proteomics for cancer biomarker characterization"
  • Papa Kobina Van Dyck (Grad Student, White Lab), "Characterizing the Molecular Mechanism of pH Sensitive Ionizable Residue Networks"
  • Xiaozheng Dou (Postdoc, Blagg Lab), "Semisynthesis and Biological Evaluation of Cruentaren A Derivatives"

Outstanding Graduate Student awardees:

Harper World Cancer Day 3
  • Janeala Morsby (B. Smith Lab), Exceptional Trainee Team Science Award
  • Sean Murphy (X.Lu Lab), Exceptional Trainee Community Outreach & Advocacy Award
  • Casey Stefanski (Prosperi Lab), Exceptional Trainee Mentor Award

Originally published by M. Sharon Stack, PhD at harpercancer.nd.edu on April 13, 2022.