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Wu Named a 2015 "Research Like a Champion" Champion

Nina Welding • DATE: May 4, 2015

Qinfeng Wu, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was one of the 2015 winners in the annual Research Like a Champion competition. Sponsored by the Harper Cancer Research Institute, the competition is open to individual students/student groups across all disciplines of the University. Participants submit innovative approaches to the fight against cancer. The submitted proposals address causes, treatment, or prevention of the disease.

Wu’s winning project, “Cell Competition in Breast Cancer: Functional Identification of Genes that Determine Whether Breast Cancer Cells Out-compete Breast Epithelial Cells,” focuses on how breast cancer cells avoid tumor suppression treatments and beat out normal cells for nutrients, as well as how best to identify and change the mechanisms through which this cell competition occurs.

One of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women, there are more than 230,000 new cases of breast cancer in United States annually. More than 40,000 of those women will die of the disease in the same year they are diagnosed. Great strides have been made in the treatment of localized breast cancer, as evidenced by the nearly 100% five-year survival rate for patients who are diagnosed early. Unfortunately, when patients are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, when it has metastasized, the five-year survival drops to less than 25%.  Wu, his adviser Jeremiah Zartman, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and the research group in the Zartman Lab are studying ways to boost survival rates. This is the second consecutive year that students in the Zartman Lab have been named among the winners of this competition.
 
Although there are differences in the types of breast cancer, specifically between localized and metastatic breast cancer, both types of these cancer cells share the ability to adapt and essentially kill surrounding normal cells (cause them to self destruct), in a process called cell competition. Because the current understanding of cell competition in cancer is limited, Wu’s winning proposal suggests the study of key mediators in cell competition in the context of breast cancer via high throughput screening. The purpose is to create a comprehensive list of these factors. Wu’s project is part of a larger effort within the lab to identify the mechanisms through which breast cancer cells escape tumor suppression activities and to validate novel therapeutic targets for breast cancer treatment.

For more information about the research, visit nd.edu/~jzartman

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