NOV 05, 2021 9:00 AM PDT

The Labroots 2021 Cancer Research and Oncology Virtual Event Poster Winner

WRITTEN BY: Katie Kokolus

Every year, Labroots hosts an exciting series of Virtual Events that focus on various scientific topics. These virtual meetings consist of oral presentations by researchers from around the world and offer a platform to hear about groundbreaking research and opportunities to network with experts. The Virtual Events also feature a forum for poster presentations offering researchers the opportunity to share their data with an international audience. 

Labroots’ 9th Annual Cancer Research and Oncology Virtual Event took place on October 6th and 7th, 2021. Topics of the meeting included advancements in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

The winner of the 2021 Cancer Research and Oncology Virtual Event Poster Competition was Meaghan Gleason, a senior at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.  Gleason presented a poster titled, “Evaluating drug delivery methods and αPD-1 combination therapies in a murine model of colorectal cancer.” I am personally thrilled that Meaghan was selected for this award as her poster was the culmination of a project she worked on as my trainee.   

Gleason was selected from a pool of applicants to participate in the University at Buffalo Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences Undergraduate Program (CLIMB UP). She chose to work in the laboratory of Dr. Pawel Kalinski at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY and I was selected as her laboratory mentor.  

Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in both males and females in the United States, accounting for about 8% of the cancer diagnoses for each gender. Additionally, 2021 estimates predict that colorectal cancer will be the third leading cause of cancer-related mortality in both males and females totaling over 50,000 deaths.  

Cycoloxygenase-2 (COX-2) is an enzyme that is overexpressed in the tumor microenvironment.  Higher levels of COX-2 expression is correlated with shorter survival times and colorectal cancer progression. Celecoxib, a COX-2 inhibitor, can block COX-2 signaling. In mouse models of colorectal cancer, celecoxib is associated with slowed tumor growth and longer survival. 

Translational research embodies turning laboratory observations and clinical interventions into new treatment approaches that will improve the survival of patients. This is often deemed “Bench-to-Bedside” research as data generated at the laboratory bench will directly impact new ways to treat patients at the bedside. 

Pre-clinical studies are an integral part of translational cancer research and drug development.  Pre-clinical research utilizes models of cancer, sometimes in laboratory mice, to investigate whether a drug, procedure, or treatment could be beneficial. These studies form a cornerstone of clinical trials and are often used to determine drug dosing and therapeutic regimens prior to testing in a clinical setting. 

A common way of administering drugs, including celecoxib, to laboratory mice is via intraperitoneal (IP) injection. Repeated injections cause stress to the animal receiving the injection and can have negative effects on the anti-tumor immune response. Thus, the stress caused by repeated injections could make data from pre-clinical experimental protocols difficult to interpret. Therefore, any method of drug delivery null of this external stressor could generate more reliable data, which could in turn better inform clinical studies. 

Meaghan’s award-winning poster provided data comparing administration of celecoxib via intraperitoneal injection or orally through food. The food is specially manufactured so that the amount of food the mouse consumes daily contains the correct daily dose of celecoxib.    

The data presented in the poster compared an immunotherapeutic regimen in combination with celecoxib. The data demonstrated that celecoxib delivered by intraperitoneal injection and through food had a similar effect; administration of celecoxib via food did not hinder the efficacy of the combination treatment regimen.    

The results of this study will contribute to the larger field of Cancer Research & Oncology because the impact could extend to numerous other drugs. Any drug administered by injection in pre-clinical studies could be tested using a similar protocol. If similar efficacy is observed when injecting a drug compared to consuming it through diet, a switch to administration via food could potentially increase experimental accuracy.

Meaghan explained, “The most meaningful part of my project was that these findings may contribute to future research by improving oral drug delivery methods for other medications.  Similar pilot studies could be conducted with other drugs typically delivered by intraparitoneal injection.  If similar efficacy is seen a switch to delivering the drug via food could increase the accuracy of murine experiments and could be shown to have relevence for clinical research and treatment as well."  

Both Meaghan and I would also like to thank our other co-authors, Drs. Pawel Kalinski and Per Basse. Without whom, Meaghan noted, “none of this would be possible…I am so fortunate to have been placed with such a great lab team that truly made this experience amazing!”

In the future Meaghan hopes to attend medical school and become a pediatric physician. She would also like to be perform pediatric research to be involved in fully translational medicine. 

Research reported from these experiments was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award Number UL1TR0012-05 and the National Cancer Institute under the award number P01CA234212.

About the Author
PhD
PhD in Tumor Immunology. I am interested in developing novel strategies to improve the efficacy of immunotherapies used to extend cancer survivorship.
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