Director's Message, Spring 2015

Sharon Stack

The academic year has come to an end and summer is finally here. It’s a good time to reflect on some of our accomplishments over the past few months.  Our 4th annual HCRI Research Day lived up to everyone’s expectations with 91 poster presenters from 30 different laboratories. The Morris Inn Ballroom was an exciting place to be as participants drawn from the Colleges of Science, Engineering, and Arts and Letters at Notre Dame as well as Indiana University School of Medicine- South Bend, shared their progress in research and discussed new collaborations.   Keep your eyes on the HCRI website ( ) for updates on the 5th annual Research Day and other upcoming events.

This spring, HCRI strengthened our community engagement by introducing the “Month of Hope” in April. The Month of Hope highlights cancer awareness events happening in our community in which HCRI participates or co-sponsors.  There isn’t space to describe everything here, but our inaugural Month of Hope included: a special exhibit of inspirational books at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore; Be Well Series at Rolfs Sports Recreation Center highlighting the research being done at HCRI; Notre Dame Women’s Rugby annual Pink The Pitch event, raising awareness for breast cancer research; The Bald and The Beautiful; Notre Dame Softball’s annual Strikeout Cancer event raising awareness for Leukemia; and of course, HCRI Research Day.  April truly was a busy month!

Focusing on the lab, our researchers have also kept busy. Here are a few highlights:

·         An article was recently published by Danny Taller, Katherine Richards,  Zdenek Slouka, Satyajyoti Senapati, Reginald HillDavid Go and Hsueh-Chia Chang  in Lab on A Chip entitled “On-chip surface acoustic wave lysis and ion-exchange nanomembrane detection of exosomal RNA for pancreatic cancer study and diagnosis.” This article is a great example of a collaborative team involving engineers and cancer biologists developing novel technologies that will benefit the search for an early detection biomarker for pancreatic cancer.

·          The American Journal of Pathology showcases HCRI members Jeff Johnson, Zonggao Shi and Sharon Stack with the paper: "Identification of a Human Papillomavirus–Associated Oncogenic miRNA Panel in Human Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma Validated by Bioinformatics Analysis of The Cancer Genome Atlas".  This study describes how the infected host responds to a cancer-causing HPV infection by producing a class of molecules called micro-RNAs (miRNA).  HPV-induced miRNAs may be an early sign of a cancer-causing HPV infection in the oral cavity.

·         Enlightened Diagnosis (EnDx), a start-up company represented by a team of University of Notre Dame graduate students, recently earned second place in the 2015 Brown Forman Cardinal Challenge at the University of Louisville and won three prizes at the 2015 Rice Business Plan Competition.  EnDx presented a business plan for a new device to better analyze and image tumor biopsies.  The new device, developed by HCRI faculty members Siyuan Zhang, Jeremiah Zartman, and David Hoelzle, can automatically process a tumor biopsy and provide a data-rich 3-dimensional image of the tumor and its surrounding environment.   This is a significant leap in information content and may lead to more accurate cancer diagnostics.

 If your summer travels bring you through South Bend, please stop in for a visit with Harper Cancer Research Institute researchers.  We have many more interesting stories to tell you!