The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a grant to Dr. Lilia Kucheryavykh, Associate Professor of the UCC Biochemistry Department, for project titled: Microglia facilitate glioma progression through the Pyk2 and FAK signaling

Glioblastoma brain tumors carry an exceptionally poor prognosis, with median survival of approximately one year following diagnosis. Treatment resistance and the invasive nature of glioma tumors negate the effectiveness of current medical approaches. Brain macrophages microglial cells infiltrate most brain tumors and have been demonstrated to promote tumor growth, invasion, and treatment resistance. The long term goal of her lab is to develop improved treatment methods for glioblastoma patients, taking into consideration the regulatory role of microglia on glioblastoma progression and responsiveness to treatment. Her recent studies revealed the overexpression of Pyk2 and FAK signaling pathways in glioblastomas and their role in microglia-promoted glioma cell migration and proliferation. Dr. Kucheryavykh proposes that combinatorial therapies utilizing dual Pyk2/FAK inhibitors, together with chemotherapeutic compounds, will target the microglial component on tumor progression and recurrence after surgery resection and significantly improve the effectiveness of treatment. In the study, resected primary human glioblastoma tissues and cell biology approaches are utilized, coupled with proteomics and metabolomics screening to dissect the microglia-derived signaling molecules and Pyk2/FAK associated intracellular mechanisms triggering glioma growth, dispersal and chemotherapeutic resistance. Also examined, in a murine model, is the efficiency of supplementing traditional chemotherapeutic glioblastoma treatment with Pyk2/FAK blockers on targeting tumor growth and recurrence.  

Congratulations also to the research team, which involves students and distinguished professors from UCC and  other institutions: Jescelica Ortiz and Gabriel Valentin, graduate students from UCC, perform their thesis research; Alejandro Albors, medical student from UCC, practices brain tumor resection surgeries in animals; Dr. Luis Almodovar, oncology brain surgeon from HIMA San Pablo Hospital, Caguas, collaborates with the team providing resected brain tumor tissues for the study; Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, oncologist and brain surgeon from Mayo Clinic, serves as a collaborator for the study in use of humanized animal models and primary human glioma cultures; Dr. Jeffrey Harrison, University of Florida, involved to the study as an expert in brain tumor immunology; and Dr. Nawal Boukli is involved to the research team as an expert in proteomics studies.