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.

 

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Receives Invitation for Membership in European Academy of Tumor Immunology

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 was recently invited to become a member of the European Academy of Tumor Immunology by the Academy’s Governing Body.  Founded in 2011  to promote tumor immunology at the scientific and clinical levels, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology (EATI) aims to “bridge fields, bridge continents, and bridge generations” of tumor immunologists across the globe who are studying tumor immunity at fundamental, translational, and clinical levels.  With his membership in EATI, Dr. Hargadon, whose research at Hampden-Sydney College focuses on immune suppression by melanoma, joins an international group of 360 tumor immunologists that includes 3 Nobel Laureates and many of the leading cancer researchers in the world.

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Receives $100,000 Grant for Cancer Research

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Jeffress Trusts Awards Program in Interdisciplinary Research to support his melanoma research program.  Funds from this grant will be used by Dr. Hargadon and his collaborating Hampden-Sydney College students to investigate anti-tumor CD8+ T cell dysfunction and the ways in which lymph node invasion by melanoma impacts the quality of tumor-specific CD8+ T cell immune responses.  Understanding these processes will shed light on mechanisms by which tumors evade immune destruction, and this knowledge may ultimately inform the design of novel immunotherapies that aim to improve the quality of anti-tumor immunity.

10 H-SC Students Inducted into Sigma Xi Honor Society

On March 30, ten Hampden-Sydney College students were inducted into Sigma Xi, the international honorary scientific research society.  Founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and to encourage collaboration among researchers in all fields of science and engineering, the Society now consists of over 500 chapters at academic, industrial, and government research institutions and has nearly 60,000 members in more than 100 countries around the world.  The Longwood University/Hampden-Sydney College chapter of Sigma Xi was reactivated in 2013, and the two institutions now alternate hosting an annual Sigma Xi Research Symposium that features a keynote speaker and student poster presentations highlighting recent research activities on both campuses.  Congratulations to the H-SC students inducted in 2016:  Branch Vincent, Christopher Hawk, J.D. Chaudhry, Jefferson Thompson, Linh Nguyen, Mitchell Thomas, Shaquann Seadrow, Will Echols, Will Fitzgerald, and Zachary Martin.

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Introduces Cancer Research into the Undergraduate Laboratory, Publishes Novel Approach for Undergraduate Investigation of Gene Expression

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published an article in the journal Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education highlighting a novel laboratory module that he developed for improving undergraduate student learning of gene expression.  This module, which is based on Dr. Hargadon’s research interests relating to melanoma, is currently used in his Biology 201 Genetics and Cell Biology course and teaches students several cutting edge techniques for investigating gene expression.  Specifically, over a 6-week period, students are exposed to both traditional and quantitative polymerase chain reaction technologies as well as flow cytometric assays as they investigate expression of the Tgfb1 gene in highly versus poorly tumorigenic melanomas at both the population and single-cell levels.  In the recently published study, Dr. Hargadon demonstrates the utility of this module in improving student learning of not only the process of gene expression but also of research techniques that may be employed for the experimental analysis of gene expression.  Since publication of this article, Dr. Hargadon has extended this laboratory exercise in his class such that upon completion of the module, students then develop their own cancer research projects in which they assess expression of a unique gene of interest that they hypothesize might contribute to melanoma progression through altered expression patterns.  Also since its publication, Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory module has also been implemented in a 300-level Biochemical Methods course at Bucknell University.

Dr. Hargadon’s article in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education can be accessed at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bmb.20958/abstract

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon, ’01 Publishes Invited Article on Melanoma Research in Leading Cancer Journal

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published an Author’s View article in the journal OncoImmunology – the article highlights recent research on melanoma-associated dendritic cell dysfunction conducted in his laboratory at Hampden-Sydney College. Published by Taylor and Francis, OncoImmunology accepts high-profile submissions in the fundamental, translational, and clinical areas of tumor immunology and is one of the leading journals in the fields of both Immunology and Oncology. Following his recent publication on the induction of tissue-resident dendritic cell dysfunction by melanoma-derived factors in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology, Dr. Hargadon was invited by the Editor-in-Chief of OncoImmunology to publish an Author’s View article highlighting his recent work. Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory continues to investigate melanoma-associated immune dysfunction and the role of cancer-associated genes in promoting immune escape and tumor outgrowth. Increasing our understanding of these phenomena will lead to the design of improved immunotherapies and targeted therapies for the treatment of melanoma and other cancers.

Dr. Hargadon’s article may be accessed at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2162402X.2015.1069462

Travis Goodloe ’16 Receives Award for Cancer Research

Senior Biology major Travis Goodloe was recently awarded 1st Place in the poster competition for research he presented at the 2015 VA Branch Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.  Travis’ research, which he conducted in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01, involved the development of a quantitative RT-PCR-based assay for detecting metastatic melanoma cells in tumor-draining lymph nodes.  His study provides a framework for future research aimed at investigating factors the promote lymph node invasion by melanoma, and the assay he developed may ultimately provide a useful diagnostic tool for assessing melanoma progression.  Travis’ poster earned the top honor from among 59 research posters presented by both undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities throughout the state.  Travis will attend medical school at the University of South Alabama following his graduation in 2016.

Travis Goodloe '16 presenting his award-winning research!

Travis Goodloe ’16 presenting his award-winning research!