Pain in the Pancreas? Emily's here to help!

Pain in the Pancreas? Emily's here to help!

The Harper Cancer Research Institute is comprised of  researchers that specialize in a variety of areas relating to cancer research. Emily Scire, a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, works under Dr. Margaret Schwarz and Dr. Niranjan Awasthi. Dr. Schwarz and Dr. Awasthi focus both on pancreatic cancer research and surgery. The Awasthi/Schwarz lab is currently engaged in both vitro and in vivo studies, and the lab ultimately aims to develop novel  therapeutic strategies to improve overall survival of patients with pancreatic cancer. In this unique environment, Emily has been able to  contribute to pancreatic cancer research and find the support needed  during her beginning stages as a researcher.

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Although Emily is relatively new at the Schwarz lab, she has found her biochemistry major to make learning lab techniques easier. Having been in a variety of labs for her biology and chemistry classes, Emily has picked up on things very fast in her cancer lab. Currently, she is helping with an experiment that determines the efficacy of a combination of therapies utilizing nab-paclitaxel, a new chemotherapy drug.

In order to do this, Emily works in the cell culture room where she grows cells and treats them with drugs to learn the effect on growth and proliferation. Although this technology has been around for a while, it has still been very effective in allowing Emily to test the effectiveness of various treatments. In addition to cell proliferation assays, she quantifies key protein levels in the cells with Western blots to see whether they are being targeted the way she expects. Ultimately, Nano particle  albumin-bound paclitaxel is an exciting alternative to previous treatments in that it is far less toxic to the rest of the body, and testing its effectiveness is an important next step for the Awasthi/Schwarz lab. Soon, Emily will start a more long-term project in which she will look at other drugs and analyze cell growth and protein levels.

Emily's main goal is to learn as much as she can while she is an undergraduate. She is gaining the skills necessary to continue to contribute to pancreatic cancer research. Looking ahead, Emily would like to get her MD or MD/PhD and her experience with Dr. Schwarz and Dr. Niranjan is an important step for her future.