Zhang Lab Graduate Student Presents at AACR’s Annual Conference

Cellular and molecular biology graduate student Adhithi Rajagopalan, a student in the lab of Jing Zhang, PhD at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, recently presented at the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual conference in Chicago. Rajagopalan’s presentation was part of a scientific session focused on animal models of cancer. UW Carbone physician-scientist Fotis Asimakopoulos, MD, PhD, a collaborator of the Zhang lab, co-chaired the session.

Rajagopalan presented on a new mouse model of advanced multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow, and represents 15 percent of all blood cancers. In the initial phases of the disease, patients are typically asymptomatic. By the time symptoms arise – including anemia, bone pain and kidney disease – patients are in the late stages. Advances in therapies have helped extend survival times by driving the disease into remission, though there is no cure for multiple myeloma.

“It’s important to have some model way to study this disease in the advanced stages,” Rajagopalan said. “Because currently, we don’t fully know what disease mechanisms exist in the later stages or how we can better treat patients.”

A mouse model of early-stage disease exists, but not the advanced disease. Rajagopalan and co-lead author Zhi Wen, a scientist in Zhang’s research group, bred mice from the existing myeloma model with mice that harbored a second mutation in the Ras gene. Ras mutations are found in 45 percent of all advanced myelomas, but rarely in early-stage disease, suggesting the mutation plays a role in driving the later stages.

“In these mice, we can recapitulate much of the human disease,” Rajagopalan said. “This model now serves as a platform to test existing and potential therapeutics for many advanced multiple myeloma patients.”

Adhithi Rajagopalan was one of over 60 UW Carbone Cancer Center researchers who presented their work at the conference, with dozens more attending to learn about current advances in understanding and developing treatments for cancer.

This article was repurposed from an original piece at https://www.med.wisc.edu/news-and-events/2018/april/carbone-scientists-annual-research-conference/