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Cancer Center Trainees Receive Awards to Present Their Research at AACR

April 4, 2024 by Katelyn Queen, PhD

Shannon Prior, a graduate student in the lab of Paula Deming, PhD, conducts research in a tissue culture hood

UVM Cancer Center, Cancer Cell, trainee members, Shannon Prior and Gopika Nandagopal, have each received a prestigious travel award to attend the annual meeting for the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) in San Diego, California. The AACR annual meeting brings together scientists, clinicians, and other healthcare professionals from across the country, to share the latest advances in cancer science and medicine. The conference, to be held April 5-10, 2024, features a multidisciplinary scientific program centered around making progress towards preventing and treating cancer. 

Prior and Nandagopal are PhD students in the lab of Paula Deming, PhD, and will present posters on their research at the annual meeting. The Deming lab studies lung adenocarcinoma, the most common primary lung cancer in the United States, focusing on lung cancer driven by mutations in two genes, KRAS and STK11. 

A native Vermonter, Prior has been involved in cancer care for many years, working in the UVM Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office before beginning her PhD. Prior will present her graduate work showing that starving lung cancer that contains KRAS/STK11 mutations of the cellular nutrient glutamine promotes a more aggressive and metastatic state. This contrasts the effects of glutamine starvation in other glutamine dependent cancers where previous work has shown therapeutic potential for glutamine starvation. Prior has identified a metabolic pathway, the Hexosamine Biosynthetic Pathway (HBP), that KRAS/STK11 mutated cells may utilize to avoid cell death due to glutamine starvation. Future work will investigate how STK11 may regulate the HBP metabolic pathway to ultimately identify therapeutic targets. After completing her graduate work Prior hopes to continue to work with the Cancer Center to reduce the burden of cancer in Vermont. 

At the AACR meeting, Nandagopal will present her work characterizing whether mutations that occur within a certain region of the STK11 gene, the C-terminal domain, are likely to be benign or contribute to disease. Her findings indicate that there are likely key residues within this region, that when mutated, alter STK11 function and contribute to disease progression. As a first-time attendee at the AACR annual meeting, Nandagopal is excited to share her research and connect with other cancer scientists. 

To learn more about the research our cancer center members conduct please visit our member directory here

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