Emily Lavell, MSSF awardee reports on her research project and findings

Emily Lavell (Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville) received the 2020 Medical Student Summer Fellowship grant funded by the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation. Her project was “Role of Glioma Extracellular Vesicles on the Transformation of Neural Stem Cells” was completed in August and she updates us on the project and its findings.

“Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive primary brain tumor in adults, with a median survival of 14 months after diagnosis. Tumor recurrence is nearly universal, due to a combination of treatment resistance, tumor invasiveness, and communication with other cells in the brain. It has been found, in particular, that glioblastoma are more aggressive when they grow in neurogenic regions of the brain that normally give rise to healthy stem cells. Preliminary evidence from Dr. Hugo Guerrero-Cazares’ lab indicated that communication between brain tumor cells and stem cells via extracellular vesicles induces a pro-cancer phenotype in neural stem cells. My project explored the role of these vesicles by intercepting their mechanism using a drug called chloramidine, which blocks their release. If the use of chloramidine successfully blocks extracellular communication by glioblastoma cells and results in a decreased cancer malignancy, this would be a novel therapeutic pathway for treating patients with malignant brain cancer. During my time working on this project, we were able to determine concentrations of this drug that were non-toxic to cells, a foundational step for further experiments exploring downstream effects of the drug. Additionally, we began to elucidate a trend in the drug’s ability to stop the release of extracellular vesicles. Experiments in the project are ongoing and seek to determine working concentrations and effects of this drug on cancer progression.”

Emily Lavell, 2020 MSSF Awardee

When asked how the funding received from the ABTA impacted her career she responded:

“It is my long-term goal to become an independent clinical investigator and leader in the study of neurological cancer. Receiving funding from the American Brain Tumor Association and The Southeastern Brain Tumor Association allowed me to take concrete formative steps toward this goal and further inspired me to continue pursuing this work in my career. During my time as an ABTA-funded medical student investigator, I was able to work with and learn from leaders in the field of neurological cancer research on a cutting-edge project at a top institution. I learned skills needed to develop an impactful project proposal, submit application for funding, execute a project in an efficient manner, and collaborate across institutions. The laboratory techniques honed and collaborative mentoring relationships established during this work has bolstered my confidence and passion and prepared me for the crucial next steps in my career progression. As a direct result of this experience, I am prepared to complete future applications for funding, develop and lead independent research projects, work collaboratively across institutions, design and execute translational research, and mentor others. Thanks to the funded opportunity from ABTA, I feel not only inspired but empowered to continue to advocate for patients and work to discover new treatments for patients with neurological cancers.”

Emily Lavell, 2020 MSSF Awardee

Read more about the impact of SBTF funded Medical Student Summer Fellowship Grants and other research grants at sbtf.org/impact

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