BC Cancer Research Seminar Series - Anita Hjelmeland, PhD
Host: Dr. Shoukat Dedhar
The Hjelmeland laboratory is interested in how the ischemic microenvironment of solid tumors (including hypoxia, low pH, and reduced glucose) impacts cancer growth and maintenance. Using glioblastoma (GBM; grade IV astrocytoma) as a model system, we seek to 1) define critical microenvironment-regulated cell signals that promote tumor growth and 2) investigate the efficacy of inhibitors of these pathways.
GBM treatment includes the chemotherapy temozolomide, which prolongs median survival by only a few months. Resistance is mediated, in part, by brain tumor initiating cells (BTICs), a highly tumorigenic subset of GBM with some similarities to neural stem cells. Ischemic microenvironments known to increase therapeutic resistance can enrich for BTICs: these data suggest common molecular signals that could be targeted for improved treatments.
In studies recently published in JCI Insight, we provided evidence that a molecule regulating the altered pH gradient of tumor cells, carbonic anhydrase 9, can be targeted with the inhibitor SLC-0111 to decrease temozolomide mediated BTIC enrichment and extend survival of GBM bearing mice. In separate unpublished studies, we will show novel molecular effects of ischemic microenvironments including low pH on GBM cells. Taken together, we believe that our data demonstrates the importance of understanding and targeting the tumor microenvironment.
I received my B.S. in Biochemistry from North Carolina State University followed by a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology from Duke University. After a post-doctoral fellowship in brain tumor research at Duke University, I worked for a number of years at Duke and the Cleveland Clinic in non-tenure track research scientist positions. In 2013, I started my research group at University of Alabama at Birmingham where I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology. My laboratory is dedicated to understanding and targeting the deadly brain tumor glioblastoma, with a specific focus on the tumor microenvironment and tumor initiating cell phenotypes.
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