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Who am I?

Hi! I’m Anna

I’m a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan! I’m studying biophysics, with minors in music and math which provide some nice variety in my daily schedule! I enjoy nature, hiking with my dog, Rex, playing tennis and softball, and cooking yummy food 🙂

In this blog, I’ll be describing some of my research about cancer and the mechanisms by which it develops and spreads. Cancer is a very important issue to me, and I plan on dedicating my career to better understanding its progression in the hopes of one day finding effective therapies. The quotes below describe my thoughts about research and I feel very lucky that I’m able to explore my curiosities in the lab!

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”

— Zora Hurston

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”

— Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

And my favorite …

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

— Albert Einstein

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more science content! Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Welcome to the lab!

The Engineered Microenvironments and Mechanobiology Lab is in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, led by Dr. Brendon Baker.

Please click HERE to watch a lab tour!

Introduction to Glioblastoma

A lot of my research focuses on studying glioblastoma brain tumors and their structural patterns. Glioblastoma, or glioblastoma multiforme, is the most common malignant adult brain tumor due to its ability to rapidly spread into the normal brain and resist therapeutics. Common treatments for glioblastoma (GBM) include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted drug therapy. However, the 5-year survival rate for GBM remains only 6%, meaning that only 6% of GBM patients survive after 5 years. Additionally, cancer usually recurs after treatment.This rate is extremely low compared to almost every other cancer, and my research works to find solutions to this problem.

Glioblastoma cells in culture:

Cells are transfected with green fluorescent protein (GFP) and their nuclei are stained blue with DAPI. Interestingly, the GBM cell does not stain for the tumor-suppressor protein, Pten, which might increase cell mobility, and in turn, tumor metastasis.

Source: NIH National Cancer Institute; Can Immunotherapy Succeed in Glioblastoma?

Credit: Cell Image Library / Wellcome Images

Common GBM Treatments:

  • Surgery: The first treatment for GBM is surgery. During surgery, the neurosurgeon will attempt to remove as much as the tumor, made up of about 1011 cells, as possible. It has been shown that removing 98% or more tumor greatly increases post-surgery “healthy time” compared to when less than 98% is removed. However, due to GBM’s ability to invade into the normal brain tissue, it is difficult to remove and additional treatments are necessary.
  • Radiation Therapy or Radiotherapy: After surgery, radiation therapy is commonly used to attempt to kill remaining cancer cells. In radiotherapy, a high-energy beam will be directed on the tumor in order to control or kill malignant cells. Radiation damages the cell’s DNA resulting in cell, and tumor, death.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is commonly used alongside radiotherapy, as co-treatment has been shown to greatly enhance patient prognosis. The most common chemotherapeutic is temozolomide. Although much is still unknown, temozolomide seems to work by sensitizing cancer cells to radiotherapy, causing them to be more susceptible to cell death.

Sources: Mayo Clinic ; NIH National Cancer Institute ; Web MD