Many cancers are preceded by mutations or changes in normal functioning genes which are important for maintaining a balance within the body. Some of these mutations are inherited and have been shown to correlate with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers.
BRCA genes like BRCA2 and PALB2 are important for suppressing cancer, and mutations in these genes are prominently known for the role they play in breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers. While various studies have shown that mutations in BRCA can predispose people to different types of cancers, it remains to be determined why cancer originates in some tissues and not others. Currently it is not known if identified, pathogenic (disease-causing) mutations or variants of undetermined significance in BRCA-related genes are associated with cancers of the cervix. The cervix, as part of the female reproductive tract, is an important barrier between the body and the environment. The cells of the cervix also play a key role in secreting solutions important for progressing the menstrual cycle and creating an environment for preventing or advancing conception. Stem cells are important because they give rise to all mature, specialized cells that make up tissues of the body. BRCA mutations in stem cells have also been shown to have tissue-specific, differential effects. It is unclear whether cervical cancer stem cells are affected by these mutations. Further, existing patient studies have been unable to examine the effects of unique mutations on a large scale, as these studies are limited by the number of patients with a specific mutation taking part in a study at any one time.
Our program will use recombinant DNA to express variants in cervical cancer cell lines and investigate the effects of the mutations on stem cell renewal and differentiation.
Dr. Victoria Mgbemena received her Ph.D. in Microbiology &Immunology in 2013 from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. After completing her training at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, in 2018, she joined Prairie View’s Biology Department. Her specialties span two major fields in the biological sciences: microbiology & immunology and cancer biology (oncology). Currently, her specific interests include cancer genetics, cancer immunology, and emerging cancer immunotherapies. As a guest lecturer, postdoc and faculty, Mgbemena has worked with high school students, undergraduates, technicians, graduate students and postdocs in research and career development programs. She has a strong commitment to fostering healthy learning environments for young women and underrepresented minority students who are interested in research and health professions.