Trainee Corner: June 2017

Barbara Muz, PhD, Post-Doctoral Research Associate (Azab Lab)

Barbara Muz, PhD presenting at the 2017 AACR Annual Meeting in Washington, DC
(photo courtesy of Hong Chen, PhD)

What is your background?

Barbara Muz, PhD
(Post-Doctoral Research Associate)

I am from Poland. I received my MSc in Biotechnology at Warsaw University of Life Sciences (Poland), and I completed my PhD at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London (UK), where for 7 years I focused on studying the role of decreased oxygen tension (hypoxia) on rheumatoid arthritis, as well as on osteoarthritis.

What led you to study at Washington University?

After obtaining my PhD, I decided to study hypoxia in tumors. One of the offers for a postdoctoral position that I received was from Dr. Azab at Washington University; I was excited and thrilled to accept this position.

What are your future career goals?

I would love to combine my cancer biology research expertise with translational research. My ultimate goal is to obtain a leadership position in academia as a principle investigator and establish my own laboratory to conduct cutting edge research in biomedical sciences in collaboration with industrial partners.

What is your project about?

Multiple myeloma (MM) is a plasma cell malignancy localized in the bone marrow and characterized by continuous metastasis across the body. Tumor microenvironment (TME) is known to contribute to MM progression and spread. Adhesion molecule such as E-selectin and chemokine such as CXCR4, among other cell surface proteins, play a pivotal role in cell trafficking and drug resistance. I tested E-selectin antagonist (GMI-1271) and a dual E-selectin/CXCR4 antagonist (GMI-1359), together with currently used MM chemotherapies (carfilzomib and lenalidomide). Combination treatments overcame TME-induced drug resistance, markedly reduced MM burden by alleviating chemoresistance and delayed tumor growth in mouse models.

What are your future plans for this subject/study?

Since the dual-function compound (GMI-1359) is more efficient, I will concentrate on testing it on cytokine release pre- and post-treatment in an autologous 3D tissue engineered bone marrow in vitro, which was developed in our lab. I will also combine some of the most novel immunotherapies with GMI-1359 in human xenograft mouse model.

Was there something in particular that led you to this subject of research?

We have previously published that adhesion molecules such as selectins and selectin ligands are crucial in MM cell trafficking and drug resistance. We believe that by targeting cancer cells as well as endothelial and stromal cells, we affect MM cell homing which provides a window of opportunity for targeting them in the circulation, where they are the most susceptible to treatment.

What was your experience like at the conference?

It was a great privilege to give a talk about one of my current projects at a one of the most prestigious conferences – American Association for Cancer Research in Washington D.C.