OCT 11, 2017 6:00 AM PDT

Cancer Chemotherapy and the tools needed to Advance Treatment in a Diverse Racial Population

Speaker
  • Associate Professor, Department of Family, Population & Preventive Medicine, Stony Brook School of Medicine
    Biography
      Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University with a primary appointment in the Department of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine and a secondary appointment in the Department of Medicine. She is Assistant Dean for Student Diversity where she serves as the primary liaison between Stony Brook Medicine and Stony Brook University, acting to encourage diverse undergraduate and graduate students to seek out and succeed in careers in the health sciences. Dr. Williams is also an affiliate faculty member in the Institute for STEM Education where she works with underrepresented community college students who are interested in biomedical careers.

      Dr. Williams has investigated the use of gene therapy in the prevention of AIDS and done extensive work on the effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), NO-releasing-NSAIDs (NO-NSAIDS), and other pharmacological agents on stemming the progression of cancer. In this capacity, she is defining the mechanistic role of NF-κB and other transcriptional factors in colon cancer prevention in response to novel chemo-therapeutic/-preventive agents. Currently, she is addressing the underlying genetic/regulatory causes associated with cancer racial health disparity. As such, Dr. Williams' group is assessing the dysregulation of miRNAs and aberrant DNA methylation as factors influencing racial health disparity in the incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer.

      Dr. Williams earned her BS from Savannah State University, an MS from Tuskegee University, and a PhD in molecular biology at Purdue University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in infectious diseases at Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral work at the New England Regional Primate Research Center's Department of Immunology and the American Health Foundation. Dr. Williams then joined Harvard University as a research scientist and was later recruited to Stony Brook as a Research Assistant Professor, being promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2013.

    Abstract

    Colorectal  cancer  (CRC)  is  the  third  most  commonly  diagnosed  cancer  and  is  the  third leading  cause of  cancer-related deaths in the western world.  The mortality from colorectal cancer in Caucasian American (CAs) has been declining, but the death rate continues to be higher in African Americans (AAs), maintaining the racial disparity. In addition, AAs more often present with CRC at advanced stages contributing to the lower five year survival rate. Hispanic-Americans (HAs) have significantly lower CRC incidence and mortality rates when compared with Non- Hispanic AA (NH-AA) and Non-Hispanic CA (NH- CA) populations. However, rates among HAs are significantly higher than those among residents of Puerto Rico and other Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America. Furthermore, preliminary data and documented results show that for HA the age at presentation is lower and the stage of the disease is higher than that of AA and CAs. We hypothesize that various factors (i.e., familial, socioeconomic, environmental and dietary) may contribute to the underlying problem of colon cancer racial/ethnic health disparity. Also, it has been noted that the response to chemopreventive agents differ as to the biological/genetic heterogeneity of the tumors of NH-AAs, HAs and NH-CAs. Since chemopreventive agents exert their effect through a molecular target, this disparity would suggest differences at the genetic level. Therefore, the formulation and evaluation of chemopreventive/chemotherapeutic agents that address the issue of differential chemoresponse and chemoresistance is essential to survival. To study, in vitro and in vivo, the development of and chemo-responsiveness of therapeutic agents to colonic diseases in diverse populations, the availability of the appropriate cells (cell lines/organoids) and animal (PDX) models are critical. Our overarching goal is to assess racial and ethnic genetic/epigenetic dysregulations and associate these changes to chemoresponse and colon cancer racial disparity. The availability of these biological tools will facilitate overcoming differential incidence and outcome seen among racial and ethnic groups for CRC. To achieve this goal, we are generating and characterizing novel cell lines, PDXs and organoids derived from NH-CAs, HAs and AAs patients with colorectal cancer. Downstream use of these biological tools will assist our group and the scientific community at large in improving targeted personal cancer treatment. This research effort is inclusive of all and will benefit a diverse population. 


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