Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 and Students Publish Article on Cancer Immunotherapy

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 and two of his research students (Corey Williams ’19 and Coleman Johnson ’19) recently published a review article on cancer immunotherapy in the journal International Immunopharmacology. The article, entitled “Immune Checkpoint Blockade Therapy for Cancer: An Overview of FDA-approved Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors,” highlights the emerging field of checkpoint blockade therapy that has revolutionized the treatment of many cancer types in recent years. Designed to “release the brakes” that inherently limit the strength and duration of natural immune responses, checkpoint blockade therapy enables many patients to achieve long-term anti-tumor immune responses capable of eradicating their disease. An expert in tumor immunology. Dr. Hargadon was invited by editors of the journal to contribute an article on cancer immunotherapy, and he used this opportunity to engage two of his pre-medical research students in the analysis of clinical trial outcomes for immune checkpoint inhibitors. Corey Williams and Coleman Johnson have been doing melanoma research in Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory since the summer of 2017. Rising seniors, they will continue their work on factors that promote tumor immune evasion during their senior year. Both have already been accepted to Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine.

The Hargadon et al. article may be accessed here: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1XJoR5aRFnNvyw

In addition to appearing in a regular issue of the journal, Dr. Hargadon’s article will also be featured in a Special Issue on “Cellular Therapeutics in the Context of Immunopharmacology.”

5 H-SC Sophomores Accepted into Medical School

5 outstanding Hampden-Sydney College sophomore students were recently accepted into prestigious medical schools through early assurance articulation agreements established at the College.  David Fluharty ’20, Khoa Tran ’20, and Jared Dunlap ’20 were all accepted to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and Eli Strong ’20 and Brian Tarnai ’20 were both accepted to the George Washington University School of Medicine.  These students will complete their 4 years of undergraduate work at Hampden-Sydney College and will then enroll in medical school in the summer of 2020!

H-SC Melanoma Research on Display at Virginia Academy of Science Annual Meeting

On Thursday, May 24, three Hampden-Sydney students working in the laboratory of Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 delivered oral presentations of their melanoma research.  Corey Williams ’19, Coleman Johnson ’19, and recently named Goldwater Scholar David Bushhouse ’19 presented their work on the role of FOXC2 in melanoma progression.  While Coleman has been investigating how FOXC2 regulates melanoma cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix and lymphatic endothelial cells, Corey has been studying how FOXC2 influences the expression of integrins and other cell adhesion molecules involved in these processes.  In related work, David Bushhouse has been optimizing a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay for identifying target genes directly regulated by the FOXC2 transcription factor.  Coleman and Corey have already been accepted to medical school at Virginia Commonwealth University, and David will be applying to graduate schools to pursue his Ph.D.

Also at this conference, Dr. Hargadon presented his work on the ways he is introducing his cancer research into the classroom as a means of exposing more students to the research process and as a tool for enabling students to investigate and better understand the process of gene expression.

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Publishes Invited Review Article in Leading Immunology Journal

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon recently contributed a comprehensive review article on dendritic-cell based immunotherapy for melanoma to a special issue of Frontiers in Immunology. An expert in tumor immunology who has conducted cutting-edge research on melanoma-associated suppression of dendritic cell function, Dr. Hargadon was invited in the summer of 2017 to contribute to the Frontiers in Immunology Research Topic “New Therapies and Immunological Findings in Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers,” a special issue for the journal edited by Dr. Atsushi Otsuka of Kyoto University in Japan and Dr. Reinhard Dummer of University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland. Dr. Hargadon’s article discusses not only the most current research on dendritic cell immunosuppression by melanoma but also other factors that influence dendritic cell function in the context of this cancer, including factors that influence the immunogenicity of tumor cell death, tumor-altered dendritic cell metabolism, and microbiome influences on dendritic cell-mediated anti-tumor immunity. His article highlights the current state of dendritic cell immunotherapy for melanoma and discusses future challenges that will need to be overcome to further improve the efficacy of dendritic cell-based therapies for this cancer.

Frontiers in Immunology is the official Journal of the International Union of Immunological Societies. It is the leading and most-cited Open Access journal in the field of Immunology and is the 5th most cited overall of 150 journals in the field of Immunology. Dr. Hargadon’s article can be accessed at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01594/full

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Presents Research at Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference

On Saturday Sept. 23 Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 joined more than 300 cancer researchers from major research universities across the state to present recent work from his laboratory at the inaugural Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference held at the University of Virginia.  Dr. Hargadon’s presentation focused on the role of the FOXC2 transcription factor as a critical driver of melanoma progression and featured work that he has conducted with 6 Hampden-Sydney College students over the last two years, all of whom were co-authors on the presentation.  These student co-authors include Jefferson Thompson ’16 (applying to medical school), Travis Goodloe ’16 (now at University of South Alabama School of Medicine), James Lau ’17 (now at Eastern Virginia Medical School), Corey Williams ’19 (already accepted at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine), Coleman Johnson ’19 (already accepted at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine), and David Bushhouse ’19 (plans to pursue Ph.D. in a field of molecular genetics).  Both Corey Williams ’19 and David Bushhouse ’19 joined Dr. Hargadon at the symposium and experienced firsthand the enthusiasm and momentum currently running through the field of cancer research.  Major themes of the conference included new insights into molecular drivers of cancer progression and strategies to improve on the already promising targeted and immune-based therapies that are revolutionizing cancer treatment.

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon '01 presenting his work on the role of FOXC2 in promoting lymph node metastasis by melanoma.

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 presenting his work on the role of FOXC2 in promoting lymph node metastasis by melanoma.

Hampden-Sydney Summer Research Students Take On Melanoma

This summer, 3 rising H-SC juniors have been conducting melanoma research with Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01.  David Bushhouse, Coleman Johnson, and Corey Williams are investigating the role of the FOXC2 transcription factor as a driver of melanoma progression.  Specifically, Corey has performed extensive phenotypic analyses of various wild-type and genetically engineered melanoma cells to study how FOXC2 expression in melanoma influences the expression of various integrins and other cell adhesion molecules on tumor cells.  In related work, Cole has focused on studying how FOXC2 expression within these melanoma cells influences tumor cell adhesion to both the extracellular matrix and lymphatic endothelial cells, processes that are instrumental in determining whether or not a tumor is able to metastasize to distant sites in the body.  In conjunction with this work, David is performing chromatin immunoprecipition studies to determine whether the regulation of cell adhesion molecule gene expression in melanoma cells that is driven by FOXC2 results from a direct interaction between this transcription factor and specific gene segments within the DNA of melanoma cells.  Collectively, this work is shaping our understanding of FOXC2’s role in melanoma progression and has the potential to identify several potential targets for cancer therapies designed to interfere with the progression of this cancer.  Cole and Corey were recently accepted into the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine Early Selection Program, and David is planning to pursue a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences.

Corey Williams '19 preparing melanoma cells for flow cytometric analysis of integrin expression.

Corey Williams ’19 preparing melanoma cells for flow cytometric analysis of integrin expression!

 

Cole Johnson '19 setting up a tumor cell/extracellular matrix adhesion assay!

Cole Johnson ’19 setting up a tumor cell/extracellular matrix adhesion assay!

 

David Bushhouse '19 isolating DNA from a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay to assess target genes of the FOXC2 transcription factor!

David Bushhouse ’19 isolating chromatin from melanoma cells to assess target genes of the FOXC2 transcription factor!

The Grinch Visits H-SC Biology Department

On December 5, the H-SC Biology Department had a special visitor lurking the halls, The Grinch!  During this time, one Professor Hargadon was nowhere to be found, and upon the Grinch’s visit to a Microbiology class, students feared that their Christmas dreams of good grades would be stolen away.  However, they soon realized that, as the story goes, the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes at Christmas, and many students were even given the gift of a final exam exemption!

The Grinch with his trusty companion, Max (aka Trickie)!

The Grinch with his trusty companion, Max (aka Trickie)!

Conspicuous by his absence, Dr. Hargadon could not even be found in his usual spot (the laminar flow hood) during the Grinch’s visit.  Rest assured, though, the Grinch saved the day and continued his work.  Melanoma doesn’t stand a chance!

The Grinch hard at work in Gilmer Hall!

The Grinch hard at work in Gilmer Hall!

 

James Lau ’17 Recognized for Research on Melanoma

Senior Biology major James Lau ’17 recently received the Best Poster Award for a poster presentation of his research at the 4th Annual Longwood University/Hampden-Sydney College Sigma Xi Research Symposium.  The symposium featured a talk by keynote speaker Dr. Steve Cresawn of James Madison University and was highlighted by a student poster presentation featuring 22 undergraduate researchers from both Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College.  James, who was recently named only the 3rd Goldwater Scholar in the history of H-SC, presented research he has been conducting in collaboration with Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01.  James began working in Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory in the summer of 2016 on a project designed to investigate the role of the Foxc2 gene in regulating the progression of melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.  James is continuing his research with Dr. Hargadon throughout his senior year for his Departmental Honors project, which is focused on assessing how expression of the FOXC2 transcription factor regulates tumor migration and invasion within tissues, key processes that ultimately contribute to tumor metastasis.  Following his graduation, James will be attending medical school at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he was accepted as a sophomore through the College’s Early Admission Program with EVMS!

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Publishes Major Review Article on TGFb1 and Cancer

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published a major review article on the role of TGFb1 in compromising the quality of anti-tumor immune responses. Following a recent publication by Dr. Hargadon and collaborating Hampden-Sydney College students in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology, which described TGFb1’s alteration of dendritic cell function in melanoma, Dr. Hargadon was invited by editors of the Journal of Clinical Medicine to submit a comprehensive review article on TGFbeta1’s influence on the anti-tumor immune responses. Dr. Hargadon’s article, entitled “Dysregulation of TGF1 Activity in Cancer and Its Influence on the Quality of Anti-Tumor Immunity” appears in the Journal of Clinical Medicine’s Special Issue dedicated to the topic “Biological and Clinical Aspects of TGF-beta in Carcinogenesis.” Dr. Hargadon’s article highlights current understanding in the field of tumor-associated TGFb1’s ability to compromise the function of several immune cell populations, including dendritic cells, T cells, macrophages, and neutrophils, and it highlights how our knowledge of TGFb1’s immunosuppressive mechanisms is being translated into novel immune therapies in the clinical setting. This article can be found at the following link: http://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/5/9/76

Ongoing research in Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory at Hampden-Sydney College is focused on understanding immune suppression by melanoma and elucidating the function of genes that promote melanoma progression. Since returning to his alma mater in 2009, Dr. Hargadon has involved 12 Hampden-Sydney College students in independent research projects related to this work, and he has incorporated aspects of his research into his Biology 201 Genetics and Cell Biology course, where 15-20 students are involved in melanoma research each year that he offers the course.

H-SC Biology Students Conducting Melanoma Research

This summer two Hampden-Sydney College Biology majors, James Lau ’17 and Brant Boucher ’17, are conducting melanoma research alongside Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01.  Previous research in the Hargadon laboratory has shown a role for the FOXC2 transcription factor in promoting melanoma growth and metastasis, and James and Brant are currently investigating different aspects of FOXC2 as it relates to melanoma progression.  Using a mouse melanoma model, James is comparing gene and protein expression profiles of a highly aggressive melanoma cell line that expresses high levels of FOXC2 versus a CRISPR-Cas9 gene-edited version of this melanoma in which the Foxc2 gene has been disrupted.  This work will provide insights into genes that may be positively or negatively regulated by FOXC2 and will improve our understanding of how FOXC2 promotes aggressive behavior in cancer cells.  In related work, Brant is investigating a novel gene silencing approach that aims to shut down Foxc2 gene expression specifically in melanoma cells.  The ability to turn this gene off specifically in melanoma cells would offer an exciting opportunity to prevent the tumor-promoting functions of this gene in cancer cells without impacting FOXC2’s normal function in healthy cells.  Both James and Brant have already been accepted to medical school and will begin following their graduation from H-SC in 2017!

James Lau '17 performing flow cytometric analysis of B16-F1 melanoma cells containing functional versus disrupted Foxc2 genes.

James Lau ’17 performing flow cytometric analysis of B16-F1 melanoma cells containing functional versus disrupted Foxc2 genes.

 

Brant Boucher '17 isolating RNA from tumor cells to assess melanoma-specific silencing of the Foxc2 gene.

Brant Boucher ’17 setting up a real-time PCR reaction to assess melanoma-specific silencing of the Foxc2 gene.