Showcase of Medical Discoveries Highlights Cancer Research

By Ben Boulden


Angus MacNicol, Ph.D., discusses his drug therapy research with graduate assistant Nathan Koonce, right, and visiting scientist Chengzhong Cai.

Sept. 25, 2014 | Collaboration and inspiration were readily available at a recent reception highlighting cancer research underway at UAMS.


Showcase of Medical Discoveries: A Focus on Cancer was held Sept. 17 at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and welcomed about 100 researchers, physicians, staff, students and community members. It was the latest in a series of events sponsored by the UAMS College of Medicine.


Scientists representing 13 research projects were on hand to discuss their work and possibly develop future collaborations. “There are people conducting cancer research all across the UAMS campus,” said Angus MacNicol, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences. “It’s a challenge to get this many people together at the same time with data in front of them. Here we get to discuss our latest results and identify shared interests. That’s why events like this are so beneficial.”


MacNicol was on hand to share information about his research identifying new drugs that prevent the growth of cancer stem cells, while allowing the survival of normal stem cells. “We’ve identified some candidate drugs and are now prioritizing these compounds for further preclinical studies,” he said.


UAMS College of Nursing professor Claudia Barone, Ed.D., A.P.R.N., also was available to discuss her team’s work on a tobacco cessation program targeting UAMS patients. Now in its third year, the program has shown a 70 percent success rate in getting patients off tobacco.


Other leaders of the tobacco cessation program include thoracic surgeon Matthew Steliga, M.D., who spearheaded the program, and Erna Boone, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Respiratory and Surgical Technologies in the College of Health Professions.


Using a face-to-face approach, the smoking cessation team meets with patients each Monday and Thursday afternoon in the seventh floor clinics at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. Patients may request to participate in the program or can be referred by their physician.


“We need people to know that even if you have already been diagnosed with cancer, continuing to smoke adds to your risk,” Barone said. In addition to one-on-one counseling, the team provides medications that help make quitting tobacco easier and more tolerable and follow-up care to improve the rate of those who successfully quit tobacco for the long term.


The Showcase of Medical Discoveries series is supported by Lawrence Cornett, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research, and grew out of discussions among College of Medicine faculty about their desire for more opportunities to interact socially regarding their scientific work. The next showcase is scheduled for Nov. 12 on the topic of nutrition.


Posters at the showcase, using text and graphics, described the work of many different research project groups that include dozens of basic and clinical scientists and trainees. They were:


  • The Capability of Canines to Prospectively Detect Thyroid Cancer. Researchers: Andrew M. Hinson, M.D.; Arny Ferrando, Ph.D.; Bekka L. Wilkerson, B.A.; Donna Waugh; Syed Abid, M.D.; Brendan C. Stack Jr., M.D.; Donald L. Bodenner, M.D., Ph.D.


  • The New Beginning: the UAMS Center for Excellence in Bone and Soft Tissue Cancer. Researchers: Corey O. Montgomery, Charles K. Lumpkin, Frances L. Swain, Sandra G. McLaren, Archana Kamalakar, Nisreen S. Akel, Kimo C. Stine, Jerad M. Gardner, Issam Makhoul, Rangaswamy Govindarajan, Larry J. Suva and Richard W. Nicholas


  • Effects of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Treatment on Liver Steatosis Using DMBA-Induced Mammary Tumor Obese Zucker Rat Modes. Researchers: Reza Hakkak, Ph.D., and Soheila Korourian, M.D.


  • Circulating Cell Detection Using Photoacoustic/Photothermal Signals to Monitor Anti-vascular Nanomedicine Efficacy Against Solid Tumors. Researchers: Robert J. Griffin, Mazen Juratli, Nathan A. Koonce, Dmitry Nedosekin, Joseph W. Levy and Vladimir Zharov


  • Impact of Race on Outcome of Stage II Colon Cancer Subjects Not Receiving Adjuvant Therapy. Researchers: A.L. Cleveland, M.D.; E.R. Siegel, M.S.; R. Govindarajan, M.D.


  • Associations of the Fecal Microbiome with Urinary Estrogens and Estrogen Metabolites in Postmenopausal Women. Researchers: Barbara J. Fuhrman, Heather Spencer Feigelson, Roberto Flores, Mitchell H. Gail, Xia, Xu, Jacques Ravel and James J. Goedert



  • Implementation of a Tobacco Cessation Program in a Multidisciplinary Oncology Clinic. Researchers: Matthew A. Steliga, M.D.; Claudia Barone, Ed.D., A.P.R.N.; Erna L. Boone, Ph.D.; Patricia L. Franklin, A.P.R.N.; and Virginia Hullihan



  • Metformin Induces Progesterone Receptor (PGR) and PGR Co-regulator Kriippel-like Factor 9 (KLF9) Gene Expression in Endometrial Carcinoma Cells. Researchers: John Mark P. Pabona, Alexander F. Burnett, Frank A. Simmen, Rebecca Stone, Charles M. Quick and Rosalia C.M. Simmen


  • Fibroblast Activation Protein Cleavage of Collagen Enhances Class A Scavenger Receptor Medicated Macrophage Adhesion. Researchers: Anna Mazur, Shanthi Vadali, Thomas Kelly and Steven R. Post


  • A Dose-escalation Phase I Clinical Trial of a Peptide-based HPV Therapeutic Vaccine, Pepcan: An Interim Report. Researchers: William Greenfield, Shawna Stratton, Rebecca Myrick, Rita Vaughn, Hannah Coleman, Maria Mercado, Horace Spencer, Nancy Andrews-Collins, Katrina Davis, W. Chuck Hitt, David Hutchins, Gordon Low, Nirvana Manning, Samantha McKelvey, Kimberly Reynolds, Dora Smith, Michael Smith, Amy Phillips, C. Matthew Quick and Mayumi Nakagawa


  • Germline Genetic Variants in ANGPT1, ANGPT2 and FGF2 are Associated with Pathologic Complete Response to Bevacizumab in Breast Cancer Patients. Researchers: Issam Makhoul, Robert Griffin, Stephen Erickson, Ishwori Dhakal, Venay R. Raj, Dorothy A. Graves, Jeannette Y. Lee, Mohammed S. Orloff, Eric R. Siegel and Susan A. Kadlubar


  • Genomics and Precision Medicine. Researchers: Christoph Heuck, Erich A. Peterson, Michael S. Bauer, Shweta S. Chavan, Cody Ashby, Meei Liu, Ruslana Tytarenko, Owen Stephens and Donald J. Johann Jr.


  • Improving Cancer Therapeutics: A Drug Discovery Approach Targeting Cancer Stem Cells. Researchers: MacNicol, M.C.; Montales, T.M.; Cragle, K.; Cragle, C.E.; Penthala, N.R.; Janganati, V.; Hardy, L.L.; Simmen, R.C.M.; Crooks, P.A., and MacNicol, A.M.