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2015 Winter Highlights of Hope

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WINTER

WINTER 2015 VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE’S HIGHLIGHTSof HOPE New Research Finds Potential Way to Combat Spread of Brain Cancer Continued investigation organizer. QPOE 2 highlights the scientific process of asking a Question, making a Prediction, collecting data through Observation, developing an Explanation and ongoing Evaluation to refine and improve the process. The inquiry-based model helps students make their own discoveries, collaborate and explore the creative nature of science. By seeking answers to questions through investigations, students learn scientific principles and discover a style of learning that is proactive and collaborative. Through creative scientific practice, students become proactive learners and have the potential to pursue careers in the sciences. Leading the Charge Teacher professional development and educational material development are important aspects of VAEI’s mission that will help carry the Institute’s inquiry-based method to students around the world. Over 1,000 teachers have benefited from the Institute's teacher professional development programs, and with the launch of the web-based NexGen Inquiry tool in 2015, thousands of teachers and millions of students are expected to utilize the model in classrooms. NexGen Inquiry provides students and teachers with access to learning tools and innovative technology in a format that encourages collaboration, creativity, problem solving and the development of 21 st century skills. It is a tool that has the potential to transform the future of science education. 3 © 2015 All Rights Reserved Scientists at Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and University of Toledo Health Science Campus (UT) recently discovered an innovative way that may halt the spread of one of the most deadly and aggressive forms of brain cancer. In laboratory studies, the team demonstrated that activating a specific family of proteins halted cancer cell migration into healthy tissue. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and deadly form of brain cancer in adults. The disease is difficult to treat—surgery or chemotherapy often fails because GBM cancer cells regularly escape and invade healthy tissues around the tumor. The study, published in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell, expands upon an earlier discovery by VARI Professor Arthur Alberts, Ph.D., of a bioactive peptide called DAD and small molecules called intramimics. Both DAD and intramimics activate a family of cell structure assembly proteins called DIAPHs, which play vital roles in GBM spread. “We hope our latest finding will lead to a novel and effective treatment for this extremely aggressive cancer,” said UT Assistant Professor Kathryn Eisenmann, Ph.D., corresponding author on the study. Dr. Eisenmann’s team, led by first author and M.D./Ph.D. graduate student Jessica Arden, showed that locking specific proteins into an “on” state using intramimics stops cancer cells from invading normal brain tissue. “Metastatic tumor cells are like any moving vehicle—all of the wheels need to be pointed in the right direction when power is applied,” said Alberts, a senior author on the study. “DIAPHs build the structures that hold and point all the wheels moving cells in the right direction. Dr. Eisenmann’s Modeling Lung Cancer Therapies Dr. Arthur Alberts data suggests that DIAPH activation or ‘agonism’ locks all wheels into arbitrary directions, so no matter how hard you push the pedal down, the tumor cells won’t move.” Alberts and Eisenmann plan to move the strategy into preclinical models for further testing, a crucial step toward translating this discovery to the clinic and patients. Visit vai.org to donate or learn more about Dr. Alberts’ research. WE NEED YOU! Since its launch, the NexGen Inquiry platform has been utilized by over 1,000 K-12 science educators in countries all over the world. We need your help to continue this momentum. The Institute’s goal is to sign up 4,000 teachers by the end of the 2015-2016 school year. You can help provide NexGen Inquiry for students and teachers—or sponsor a school or district. Support STEM education in the U.S. by making a gift today! 100 percent of all gifts to Van Andel Education Institute go directly to science education programs. Visit www.vai.org/supportnexgen. Sponsor 1 Teacher: Sponsor 5 Teachers: 0 Sponsor 10 Teachers: 0 Scientists from Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and Los Alamos National Laboratory have teamed up to design a mathematical model for autophagy in lung cancer. Autophagy, or “self-eating,” is a vital process that removes damaged cellular components from healthy cells and is integrally involved in cell death. Cancer cells can manipulate this process by using cellular waste to fuel their growth and survival. Dysregulated autophagy has become the target of concerted therapeutic development efforts in recent years. The project, led by VARI Associate Professor Jeffrey MacKeigan, Ph.D., in collaboration with William Hlavacek, Ph.D., of Los Alamos National Laboratory, is funded by a recently awarded .6 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NCI). NCI funding will allow the team to further enhance and refine their earlier model, which is based on precise measurements of autophagy in living cells and intricate mathematical algorithms. Once the model is complete, the team will be able to systematically evaluate and predict possible therapeutic strategies for lung cancer through modeling simulations. After potential therapies have been identified, they Dr. Jeffrey MacKeigan will be evaluated experimentally. Although MacKeigan’s team will utilize the new model to study lung cancers, the model will also be useful for studying autophagy’s role in other cancers. Visit vai.org to donate or learn more about Dr. MacKeigan’s research. 2 | Van Andel Institute Highlights of Hope Van Andel Institute Highlights of Hope | 3

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