Raju Rayavarapu and Ana Jakimenko received awards at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center Research Conference on May 9, 2012. Jakimenko and Rayavarapu both work with Zachary Schafer, Coleman Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology.
The goal of the event is to increase understanding and awareness of IU Simon Cancer Center research endeavors and encourage collaboration with other cancer research institutions in Indiana, including IUPUI, Indiana University-Bloomington, Purdue University and the Harper Cancer Research Institute, a collaboration between IU Medical School and the University of Notre Dame.
Graduate student Raju Rayavarapu presented, “The role of cell-cell contacts in the survival of extracellular matrix detached mammary epithelial cells.” Normal epithelial cells must be attached to the extracellular matrix (ECM) in order to proliferate and survive. Binding to the ECM facilitates the activation of pathways responsible for ATP production and cell survival. When detached from the ECM, normal cells will upregulate apoptotic pathways and will be systematically removed through a process known as anoikis. Rayavarapu’s research focused on HER2, a potent oncogene found in 30%of all breast cancer tissue. He found that the overexpression of HER2 in non-malignant mammary epithelial cells results in the substantial aggregation of detached cells, the inhibition of capase activation and a rescue of ATP production. This data suggests that HER2 plays a role in protecting detached cells from anoikis and this activity may be linked to cell-cell adhesion in suspension. Rayavarapu’s presentation earned an honorable mention in the basic science category for graduate students.
Post-doctoral fellow Ana Jakimenko presented, “The regulation of anoikis by carcinoma-associated fibroblasts in breast cancer cells.” The initial step of the metastatic cascade in most carcinomas occurs when tumors cells break through the basement membrane and invade locally into the surrounding microenvironment. Jakimenko’s research revealed a mechanism by which carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) contributed to tumor formation. Her results also suggest that targeting factors secreted from CAFs could be a novel therapeutic approach to eliminating extracellular matrix (ECM)-detached cells through selective induction of anoikis. Jakimenko’s presentation earned third place in the basic science category for post-docs and medical fellows.