Abstract: Exploring the roles of the transcription factor MYC in cancer is not a new venture. The gene myc is overexpressed or deregulated in many human cancers. Its functionality provides many of the building blocks required for the rapid cell proliferation exhibited by cancer cells. Attempts to drug myc directly are difficult and therefore the targets we work with are the genes which MYC interacts with. One such protein is the Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). AHR is a nuclear receptor that is activated upon ligand binding followed by nuclear translocation. In the nucleus AHR binds to its similar binding partner ARNT1 and increases transcription of many genes involved in the detoxification pathway. The ligand under investigation in this paper is tryptophan metabolite kynurenine. Due to the prevalence of AHR and notably high death rate from lung cancer, we investigated NSCLC cells to identify potential targets for therapy. This paper approaches lung cancer by identifying a deregulated pathway and targeting each step to examine its effects. We examined the effects of protein levels and viability during the absence of AHR and the upregulation of AHR and MYC. With regards to tryptophan metabolism, we supplemented cell growth and inhibited the metabolic pathway to view viability of cells. Ultimately, we posit that NSCLC are affected by tryptophan levels and it propose it as a potential area of therapy.
"Researching was and is important for me because regardless of the field I enter, there is always more investigative work that needs to be done; finding causes, preventions, and new treatments."
What does research mean to you? Researching was and is important for me because regardless of the field of I enter, there is always more investigative work that needs to be done; finding causes, preventions, and new treatments. I have always been unsatisfied by doing nothing - simply bystanding - and actively researching gives me a purpose to work towards. Lab at UTSW began early in the morning, ordinarily a slow time of day for me. Yet, the more involved I became, the more excited I became about coming in each day and setting up experiments and analyzing results. Research integrated me into a close-knit team who were all ardent about their work. We worked together and learned from each other. The opportunity to research allowed me to become deeply invested in a project I could learn about in depth and contribute within my field.
Tell us about your journey. At the beginning of the program I was really worried about not being able to keep up with the pace of a full-time lab and being separated from my friends on campus. With our weekly meetings, I was glad to gradually become good friends with the other fellows and the Green Fellows coordinators. They became a strong network of support in going through the semester, both in lab and beyond in extracurriculars. Within my lab, I received one on one instruction from my mentor and my PI. I learned to read and then apply literature in my lab. After a few frustrating failed experiences in lab, I began to hone my skills and began receiving results. I slowly graduated to presenting in lab meetings. At the end, I had become so involved in my work that I stayed on throughout the summer in the SURF program.
My time as a Green Fellow has been an amazing journey. I began unsure how helpful the semester would be; if I would find my research interesting, if taking a semester off would be worth it, and uncertain about being an undergraduate in a graduate and PhD lab. However, I can firmly say that the support system during the program is unlike any other. The program advisors and Dean were personable, helpful, and answered every question from “what should the poster look like?” to “how do we avoid traffic?” My lab itself suited my interests that I had described in my application. My PI, my mentor, and my entire lab accepted me in their team quickly, and worked to provide me guidance to become an independent researcher. This semester has helped me grow, and I would recommend the Fellowship to any pre-med or pre-PhD student because it helps you mature skills – applying and communicating science - needed in both fields. For me, the Green Fellowship has made me more confident in my abilities and was an invaluable experience I was honored to have.
What advice would you give to a future Green Fellow? Even though they work full time make sure to be involved in extracurriculars at UTD and understand your research well to explain it to a variety of people.