Luke Nelson

Section 1


[Name]: Luke Nelson

[Department]: Molecular Biology & Biochemistry 

[Mentor]: Olga Razorenova

Project Title: Targeting the Rho/ROCK pathway for treatment of VHL-deficient Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma


I am a graduate student in the Razorenova lab, where I study Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (CC-RCC). This is the most common form of kidney cancer and is often highly resistant to standard cancer therapies. My work aims to better understand the molecular pathways involved in this cancer, with the goal of identifying and testing new drugs to treat patients. So far, the Razorenova lab has identified the Rho Kinase (ROCK) signaling pathway as being targetable in VHL-deficient CC-RCC and are currently testing the effects of ROCK inhibitors in a Patient-Derived Xenograft model.

I am also using single cell sequencing to characterize these kidney tumors on cellular level. There may be a small population of cancer cells known as “cancer stem cells” that are responsible for sustained production of cells in the tumor. It is thought that persistence of the cancer stem cells after surgery/chemotherapy is what causes relapse of the cancer. Using single cell sequencing to identify the genetic signature of the cancer stem cells may help researchers design better drugs that can target these cells more directly, and thus reduce the chance of relapse after treatment.