LOS ANGELES - Marianna Sarkissyan, a research associate in the Division of Cancer Research and Training at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, recently won third-place for delivering an oral presentation on cancer health disparities at the New England Science Symposium, in collaboration with the Harvard Medical School.
The title of her paper was “Comorbidities in African American and Hispanic/Latina Breast Cancer Patients Are Associated with Insulin-Like Growth Factor Gene Polymorphisms: A Hospital-Based Comparison Study.” The study authors, other than Ms. Sarkissyan, were: Yanyuan Wu, Dhruva K. Mishra, Xiying Shang, Suren Sarkissyan, and Dr. Jay Vadgama.
“I am extremely proud of Marianna and my team members who have contributed to this study, said Dr. Vadgama, professor of Medicine, Chief, Division of Cancer Research and Trainingat Charles Drew University. Dr. Vadgama is the principal investigator of the study, and Marianna’s mentor.
The New England Symposium is a highly respected program, where Ms. Sarkissyan competed with postdoctoral fellows, medical students, graduate and undergraduate students. The aim of the symposium is to encourage students from postdoctoral fellow/ medical student level to college level to present their research projects through oral or poster presentations, to exchange ideas that can further their career development and to expand their professional network.
Ms. Sarkissyan finished only behind the winner Polakit Teekakirikul, M.D., a postdoctoral/research fellow, Harvard Medical School and Sunah Hwang, a clinical fellow at Children’s Hospital Boston, division of Newborn Medicine. Ms. Sarkissyan’s award is named after Ruth and William Silen, M.D., that recognizes those who deliver outstanding oral presentations or create exceptional scientific posters.
“As her mentor, I couldn’t be more proud,” said Dr. Vadgama. “Marianna always demonstrates strong work ethics and dedication to excellence. This is a testimony of our institutional commitment to student education and training and to our mission.”
Ms. Sarkissyan began her career in cancer research at the age of 19 in the Division of Cancer Research and Training at CDU. As with several other students, she had the opportunity to start as a student researcher, funded through Dr. Vadgama’s long-time NIH funded Undergraduate Summer Student Research Program. This program provides summer research training opportunities for 10 undergraduate students per year.
The Division of Cancer Research and training has established the “Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities”. This program was funded for five years for $15 million in partnership with UCLA-Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. One program area is Cancer Education and Training that provides training and mentoring in cancer research in molecular oncology, clinical oncology, and cancer control and prevention research at CDU and UCLA.
“I was very proud to represent our division and the university,” Ms. Sarkissyan said. “It was wonderful experience to talk about our cancer health disparities research to a large audience and bring awareness to important cancer health issues. These opportunities allowed me to show case the quality of education and training in our cancer division at CDU.”
Ms. Sarkissyan completed her undergraduate work at the University of California-Irvine, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology. Despite many other opportunities, Ms. Sarkissyan elected to conduct research at CDU before she begins her graduate studies as an MD/PhD student. She is committed to a career in translational cancer research and medicine.
“I am confident that Ms. Sarkissyan will add to the list of outstanding physician/scientists that our institution has generated,” said Dr. Vadgama. “I really encourage students who are interested in research and cancer health disparities to consider applying for a summer internship in our Undergraduate Cancer Research Training Program (UCRTP). It is an amazing gateway, led by incredible mentors, which allows you to learn high quality academic research and provides unbelievable opportunities like participation in the New England Science Symposium.”
Overall, “it was a good feeling to know that the content and the quality of our research is nationally acknowledged and valued,” she said.