Stony Brook University junior Ruchi Shah, a biology major minoring in journalism, has received an American Association for Cancer Research’s (AACR) Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award. Only 10 college students in the country are selected annually for this honor, representing the best cancer researchers who show the most promise in the field.
AACR offers these awards to full-time, third-year undergraduate students majoring in science to inspire them to enter the field of cancer research and provide a unique educational opportunity in the development of their science careers.
“My goal is to revolutionize cancer treatment through an MD with a research focus, which will allow me to combine my work at the bench with clinical applications to create more effective treatments with fewer side effects for patients,” said Shah upon receiving the award.
She attended the 2015 AACR Annual Meeting in Philadelphia April 18 through 22. The research project she presented placed second internationally among all college students at the conference.
Shah is in the highly selective Scholars for Medicine BS/MD program and a member of Women in Science and Engineering at Stony Brook and Women’s Leadership Council. She serves as a student ambassador, counselor for Stony Brook Camp Kesem and secretary of the Hindu Student’s Council. She was the youngest participant at the inaugural Forbes Women’s Summit: Power Redefined in 2013, earning her place among the impressive roster of CEOs, leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators for developing an all-natural, inexpensive mosquito repellent. Her commitment to tackling a pressing world problem, coupled with her passion for science, was no doubt the reason she was selected as the youngest speak at the inaugural TEDxSBU conference. Shah also started a weekly science column called “Under the Microscope” in the Statesman. Her goal is to make research advances accessible to the global population.
In addition to her rigorous classwork and entrepreneurial venture, Shah has been working in the laboratory of Kenneth Shroyer, MD, PhD, chair of Stony Brook’s Department of Pathology, on research to improve understanding of the mechanisms of cancer. She began in the lab as a Simons Fellow in 2011 investigating biomarkers to improve cervical cancer diagnosis.
Her research now focuses on the Shroyer lab’s discovery that the intermediate filament keratin 17 (K17), previously considered a marker of cell type, could predict survival of early-stage and advanced-stage cancer patients. The concept that this protein, previously thought to be primarily involved in cellular responses to mechanical stress, could serve as a prognostic biomarker was virtually unprecedented. Thus, a primary focus of ongoing research in the lab is to uncover the mechanisms through which K17 makes cancer cells more aggressive. One of the hallmarks of cancer is the ability of cancer cells to evade cell-cycle regulation. Research led by Luisa Escobar-Hoyos, a PhD graduate student from the Department of Pharmacology, systematically revealed that cytoplasmic K17 is able to enter the nucleus and to promote the degradation of p27, a tumor suppressor.
Under the mentorship of Dr. Shroyer and Escobar-Hoyos, Shah’s award-winning project focused on characterizing the interaction between nuclear K17 and p27 that results in cell-cycle progression using cervical cancer cells derived from patient cancer, biochemical methods and super-resolution microscopy. Their findings could represent a major contribution to the field of cancer biology and pathology because it opens up an entirely novel area of cancer research focused on the mechanistic roles of intermediate filament proteins in cancer progression.
“It is truly an honor for my research to be recognized on an international scale and I am so thankful to my mentors, parents, friends and the University for their continued support,” added Shah. “I can’t believe how much I have learned and grown as a scientist and as a person from the time I started in the lab as a Simons Fellow to where I am now.”
— Lynne Roth