Hannah Shrader, Undergraduate student, Biochemistry and Medical Anthropology
Improves outcomes for pancreatic cancer
• Hometown: Ankeny, IA
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Carlos Chan, MD, PhD – Surgical Oncologist
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Double major in Biochemistry and Medical Anthropology with a certificate in Clinical and Translational Science/ May 2021
• Please describe your research: In Dr. Chan’s lab, I experimentally deconstruct the immunologic impact of the standard surgical Whipple on the metastasis of pancreatic cancer. A Whipple is currently the only curative opportunity for this disease. The technique can be highly effective, but often involves the spillage of bile, contaminated with bacteria from the gut flora, into the peritoneum. We predict this bile will impact the metastability and subsequent outcome of patients who have undergone a Whipple. Our results suggest that there is a connection between the presence of bacteria in the spilled bile and the pro/anti-tumorigenic promoted outcomes. Following my initial first-author publication, I am now focusing on the connections between pancreatic cancer pathology and the way the human body responds to it, with the goal of tagging treatment targets.
• In simple terms, why does your research matter? Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer in American adults, with a 5-year survival rate of less than 10% and there is currently only one possible curative treatment option; surgery. There is so much that we don’t know about the disease and the way that it interacts with the body and this research is working to change that. Building the foundation for immunotherapy options for pancreatic cancer is vital to providing more effective treatment options to our patients in the future.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I began my career as a research scientist right before my Sophomore year in August 2018. I knew that I wanted to be involved in research when I arrived as a freshman, but I waited until Spring of freshman year to begin onboarding, allowing myself some time to adjust to college. Looking back, I wish that I had chosen to get involved sooner – research has been one of the highlights of my college career.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? This involvement taught me the importance of collaboration, the broad reach that research has in all fields, and the ways leadership and mentorship intertwine to shape the outcomes of groups and organizations. Having the opportunity to improve my problem-solving, presenting, and networking skills has been invaluable and made me a more successful researcher, student, and individual.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I plan to go get a PhD in an immunological related field with the eventual goal of becoming a researcher at a leading institution like the National Institutes of Health or the Babraham Institute.
• Does your research have connections to COVID-19? It does not. However, when the research laboratories were closed Spring and Summer 2020, I volunteered to help on the frontlines of the pandemic as one of the first COVID Screeners at UIHC.
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