Leading cancer researchers, community outreach and engagement experts, cancer survivors and University of Illinois Cancer Center members, trainees and staff gathered to learn, share ideas and celebrate scientific inquiry at the 2023 Dr. Gary Kruh Cancer Research Symposium and Student Poster Competition.
About 200 people registered for the annual symposium, which was held April 28 in honor of the late Kruh, who was appointed Cancer Center director in 2007 and remained in the position until his death in 2011.
This year, the in-person event featured four key speakers and attracted nearly 50 scientific posters for its student competition. The poster competition had four categories: Cancer Biology, Cancer Prevention and Control, Translational Oncology and Multidisciplinary.
Symposium attendees were treated to lively research presentations by physician-scientists Nima Sharifi, MD, Director of the Center for Genitourinary Malignancies Research at the Lerner Research Institute at Cleveland Clinic who was recently named scientific director of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Desai Sethi Urology Institute, and Arun Wiita, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
Trainees in the audience peppered Sharifi with questions after his presentation, “Connecting Human Steroid Metabolism Phenotypes in Physiology to Cancer” and did the same to Wiita after his presentation, “Not Just Scratching the Surface: Proteomic Strategies to Uncover Immunotherapeutic Targets in Hematologic Malignancies.”
The event’s focus shifted to community outreach and engagement when Marvella Ford, PhD, Associate Director of Population Sciences and Cancer Disparities at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Hollings Cancer Center in Charleston, detailed for the crowd how they partner with local organizations to spread their community outreach and engagement efforts throughout South Carolina because the entire state is their catchment area.
Symposium attendees got a glimpse of cancer’s personal toll when cancer survivor Dan Olas detailed his cancer journey, which began 14 years ago when he was diagnosed at age 37 with colon cancer and first treated at UI Health.
The event wrapped up with the presentation of trainee and poster awards.
- Clarissa Gomez, an undergraduate researcher, and Katarina Valjic, PhD, were each awarded one-year $2,000 scholarships supported by the Cancer Federation Inc.
- Shreya Deb, a PhD student, and Blessing Nwachukwu, a PhD student, were both granted $500 travel awards to present posters at scientific meetings. Deb presented her poster, “Tissue-Specific Regulatory Roles of Sorting Nexin 27 in Intestinal Inflammation” at the American Physiology Summit in Long Beach, California, and Nwachukwu presented her poster, “Characterization of Patient Work Networks of Nigerians With Breast Cancer” at the International Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care in Orlando, Florida.
- Cancer Biology poster winners were Benjamin Gordon, a MD/PhD student, for “Tumor Derived JAGGED-1 Promotes Breast Cancer Lymphovascular Invasion and Lymph Node Metastasis,” and Mohamed Haloul, a PhD student, for “ISG15 Promotes Breast Cancer Metastasis by Modulating Cell Stiffness as an Immune Evasion Mechanism.”
- Cancer Prevention and Control poster winners were Manoela Lima Oliveira, a PhD student, for “Diet Quality and Fecal Bile Acid Composition” and Jacob Barnard for “Modeling the Malignant Transformation of Fallopian Tube Epithelium Driven by Extracellular Vesicles Cargos in an Organ-on-Chip Microphysical System.”
- Translational Oncology poster winners were Sabrina Iddir, a medical student, for “Differentiating Uveal Melanoma From Indeterminate Melanocytic Choroidal Tumors – A Critical Diagnostic Decision,” and Qiyue Luan, a PhD student, for “Fibroblast-Induced Drug Resistance of Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma Patient-Derived Organoids.”
- Multidisciplinary poster winner was Kirsten Krieger, a PhD student, for “Vitamin D Deficiency Regulates Androgens And Differentiation In Mouse Prostate Organoids, Prostate Cancer Cell Lines And In Vivo.”