[Name]: Nicole Stivers
[Department]: Radiation Oncology
[Mentor]: Charles Limoli
Project Title: Sex dimorphisms in paclitaxel-induced normal tissue toxicity in mice
I am a Ph.D. student studying Environmental Health Sciences, with an emphasis in Environmental Toxicology at the UCI Samueli College of Health Sciences. I conduct my dissertation research under Professor Charles Limoli in the department of Radiation Oncology, where I have been awarded the ICTS pre-doctoral trainee fellowship to investigate the long-term effects of cancer therapies in non-cancerous tissue in male and female rodents.
As advances in cancer treatments and detection regimens continue to increase malignant-free prognosis and cancer survival life spans, my research aims to address a growing epidemic of the debilitating, long-term cognitive and systemic toxicities caused by radiation and chemotherapy treatments in cancer survivors, resulting in a decreased quality of life for patients and their families.
Historically, despite the fact that men and women are both susceptible to cancer treatment-induced toxicity, the majority of basic research publications investigating cancer treatments are limited to male cellular and animal models. Although growing evidence suggests cancer treatments, including radiotherapy and chemotherapeutic agents, cause both transient and permanent toxicities, whether such effects impact both sexes to the same extent remains inconclusive.
In order to address this issue, my research studies the effects of clinical levels of paclitaxel exposure on cognitive dysfunction and the resulting neurobiological phenotypes in male and female mice. Despite being one of the most ubiquitous chemotherapy reagents, commonly used to treat a range of cancers in men and women including lung, breast, pancreatic, and ovarian, little data exists on the long-term health consequences of paclitaxel alone or with adjuvant radiotherapy. Interestingly, my research has led me to a novel discovery of a female-specific mechanism of protection against paclitaxel toxicity in the normal (non-cancerous tissue) of mice.
These findings have motivated my interest in engaging in community discussions about the lack of female representation in biomedical research. My research is demonstrative of the importance of addressing sex as a biological variable in biomedical and clinical research and the need to rectify the large gaps of knowledge in female-specific research models. Along with my dissertation work as an ICTS pre-doctoral trainee, I have also been awarded the Newkirk Center for Science and Society Science&Society@UCI Dissertation Fellowship to investigate the efficacy of NIH's new research policy mandating sex as a biological variable (SABV) in translational research.