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Rachael Cunningham awarded AHA Predoctoral Fellowship

RachaelCunninghamRachael Cunningham, a fourth year PhD student in the DeRose lab, has been selected for a 2015 American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship.  The $50,000 award will be distributed over two years, and is intended to help students initiate careers in cardiovascular and stroke research by providing research assistance and training. Research topics may be broadly related to cardiovascular function and disease and stroke, or to related clinical, basic science, bioengineering or biotechnology, and public health problems, including multidisciplinary efforts.

Rachael completed her undergraduate work at Lake Superior State University in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, graduating in 2010 with a BS in forensic chemistry.  Her research in the DeRose lab focuses on the interactions of Pt(II) anticancer therapeutics with biomolecules in the cell, specifically interactions resulting in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress.

“Despite the broad use of Pt(II) drugs,” she explains, “their efficacy is currently limited by adverse side effects, including cardiotoxicity. Cardiotoxicity during chemotherapy is a large problem, and one hypothesis is that this cardiotoxicity is in part due to ER stress.”

To better understand the mechanism by which these chemotherapeutics induce ER stress, the DeRose laboratory has synthesized Pt(II) compounds modified with a reactive handle for post-treatment labeling of Pt(II) cellular targets.  By identifying which cellular targets are involved in ER stress, they hope to advance the development of Pt(II)-based drugs with lower toxicity, and create a more sensitized antitumor response.

Rachel has yet to decide on her post-degree plans, but her current interests lie in non-faculty academic research or industry work.

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