SPUR 2022: MICROENVIRONMENT EVOLUTION AND THERAPEUTIC CONSEQUENCES IN METASTATIC PROGRESSION

Mentor Name:
Shreya Goel

Mentor Position:
Assistant Professor

Department:
Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry

College:
Pharmacy

Email:
shreya.goel@utah.edu


Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

Metastases are responsible for a majority of cancer-related deaths. Inter-tumoral heterogeneity; the fact that every tumor has distinct genetic, epigenetic, and biophysical features, poses a challenge for effective cancer therapy. While genetic and epigenetic variants that influence a tumor’s response to targeted therapy have received great attention, comparatively less is known about the physiological heterogeneities in the metastatic TME. Aberrant blood vessels, hypoxia and dysregulated matrix, influence the delivery and hence, efficacy of administered chemo-, and immuno-therapies. Surprisingly, despite their critical roles in cancer progression, treatment response and resistance, our understanding of the vascular and stromal heterogeneities of metastatic TME remains limited.

The overarching goals of this project are to: (1) systematically catalogue the dynamic changes that occur in the vascular and stromal microenvironment of the metastatic tumors as they grow from single cell to micro- and macro-metastases, and (2) to evaluate how these changes correlate with and impact the delivery and therapeutic efficacy of clinical anti-cancer therapies.

We will evaluate these dynamic evolution of metastatic vascular and stromal niche in the context of experimental models of pulmonary metastases of triple negative breast cancer, with the expectation that findings from these studies will lead to multi-organ, multi-tumor investigations in advanced models of metastatic cancers.



Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position


Student Role:

Student role and responsibilities include: Image processing, analysis and quantification of multiplexed immunofluorescence data from high resolution confocal tissue microscopy, using advanced image analysis software. Organizing and presenting their results through oral and written presentations during lab meetings. Students will assist in literature search, writing manuscripts and preparing presentations. Contributions will be recognized through co-authorships, as applicable. Establishing and maintaining cultures for various mammalian cell lines. The student will learn and use techniques like cell culture, microscopy, flow cytometry etc. Assisting the PI and other lab members in in vitro and in vivo experiments after proper training. Being proactive, curious, driven, and respectful in the lab.


Student Benefits:

The student will have the benefit to work and learn in a highly multidisciplinary research environment to gain experience in basic and translational biomedical cancer research. The student will get direct hands-on experience with cell culture and related in vitro experimental procedures. There are opportunities to learn cutting-edge imaging methods and software. The student will present progress report in weekly lab meetings; thus, they will have exceptional training in critical evaluation of the data, communication skills, and problem solving. These skills are essential in career development and advancement. Through these meetings and feedback, the student will also find support to prepare and practice for their final presentation for the Undergraduate Research Symposium. The students will be encouraged to engage in other projects and collaborate with other members to expose them to a broad range of biomedical research and diversify their scientific experiences.


Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022


Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).