Primary Research Focus
The basis for much of the work in the Miskimins Lab is the “reprogramming” of cancer cell metabolism. For energy metabolism most normal tissues and cells use carbohydrates, proteins and fats which are processed to maximize ATP production. In contrast, cancers rely heavily on carbohydrate, primarily glucose and metabolism. Cancer cells use glucose to produce energy, but they also use the carbon chains of glucose to produce the “building blocks” needed to make new cells. They also rely on metabolism of certain amino acids for growth. The lab’s current research focuses on understanding the regulation of these metabolic pathways and how they can be manipulated to alter the properties of tumors.
A main research interest in the Miskimins lab is tumor cell metabolism. Cancer cells undergo a process called metabolic reprogramming that allows them to survive and proliferate under conditions that would be detrimental to normal cells. By modulating the altered metabolic processes, it may be possible to specifically target cancer cells and inhibit their growth and promote their death. The team has found that several drugs or compounds that alter specific metabolic pathways are toxic to cancer cells. One of these drugs is metformin, which is commonly used for treating type II diabetes. In cancer cells, metformin inhibits cell proliferation and then promotes cell death. The lab is analyzing the mechanisms that lead to these cellular responses. The goal is to determine the molecular pathways that mediate these effects. The Miskimins lab is also identifying other metabolism-targeted drugs and compounds that synergize with metformin to kill cancer cells.
About the Miskimins Lab
Lab Projects and News
Project Title: Knockdown delta-5-desaturase in breast cancer cells that overexpress COX-2 results in inhibition of growth, migration and invasion via a dihomo-γ-linolenic acid peroxidation dependent mechanism.
Role: Project Co-Principal Investigator
This is an investigation to understand if a high level of COX-2 in breast cancer cells can be capitalized on inhibiting cancer growth and migration. The outcome of this translational research could guide us to develop new anti-cancer strategy and/or to improve current chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment.
Meet the Miskimins Team
Shanta Messerli, PhD
Dr. Shanta Messerli graduated from Purdue University with a Ph.D in neuroscience and performed postdoctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.
Prior to coming to Sanford, Dr. Messerli taught biology at Northern State and Bridgewater State University and was an assistant research scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Her focus in the Miskimins lab involves evaluating the efficacy and therapeutic effect of small molecule inhibitors in murine models of breast and brain cancers.
Alex Verma, BS
Alex Verma received a B.S. in biochemistry from Colorado State University in 2009. He is currently in the research phase of the M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of South Dakota.
He is currently investigating the connection between metabolic alterations and expression of immune checkpoint inhibitors in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
High School PROMISE Scholar
Noah Keime is a senior at Dakota Valley High School. After graduation, he will pursue an undergraduate degree in biology, though he isn't sure where yet. After college, he hopes to attend medical school.
In the summer of 2017 he was selected as a PROMISE Scholar and completed research in the Miskimins lab, examining the effects of a novel stroke drug on breast cancer.