Mountaintop Students Participate In Cancer Research Presentation
FACULTY AND STUDENT RESEARCHERS from The Commonwealth Medical College and Misericordia University presented a lecture for students at Misericordia University about the collaborative research the two schools are engaged in involving cancer. Participating in the presentation, seated from left, are Dr. Jun Ling, assistant professor of biochemistry, TCMC, and Dr. Frank DiPino, Jr. Back: Sara Sabatino, Nuangola; Donna Castelblanco, Edison, N. J.; Rachel Bohn, Mountain Top; and Jessica Moss, Hunlock Creek.

As part of an on-going collaborative research project between The Commonwealth Medical College and Misericordia University, Dr. Jun Ling, assistant professor of biochemistry at The Commonwealth Medical College, presented a lecture at Misericordia University regarding his research that may lead to a cure for cancer.

Dr. Ling presented the talk, “Regulation of mRNA translation by PAK-2 kinase and its regulatory role in cancer development.” He described the general properties of the PAK-2 gene and discussed the analysis of the dual function of PAK-2 in cancer development. He also shared experimental results on regulation of mRNA translation by PAK-2 with the audience comprised of more than 90 Misericordia students and faculty.

Dr. Ling is working with Misericordia University on two separate research projects. Misericordia University senior Amelia Poplawski is using her computational chemistry expertise to work alongside Dr. Lin and his team to study the molecular mechanisms of the protein enzyme PAK-2 as a possible cause for breast cancer.

“We are studying the biochemistry of the protein enzyme PAK-2, found in breast tissue, and the relativity of it to the occurrence of breast cancer,” Poplawski explains. “There has already been a large amount of research done on the similar PAK-1 enzyme, but PAK-2 is proving to be more complicated. We are hoping to do enough research to publish in the near future.” A team of fellow students, led by Misericordia biology professor Frank DiPino, Jr., Ph. D., is also working with Dr. Ling and TCMC researchers to solve their own piece of the genetic puzzle. They hope to alter the PAK-2 gene so it can be used to develop anti-tumor agents.

The pre-med students working with Dr. Ling include Donna Castelblanco, Edison, N. J., Rachel Bohn, Mountain Top, and Sara Sabatino, Nuangola. The three will present, along with Dr. DiPino, at the American Medical Student Association Annual Meeting in New Orleans, La., on March 6-9. They will present on their research being conducted with Dr. Lin on PAK-2. In the project, the researcher are using molecular biology methodologies to prepare, characterize and alter PAK-2 gene to explore potential to use it as a therapeutic target in the development of anti-tumor agents.

In the second phase of their research, they will use in vitro mutagenesis to introduce specific mutations in the DNA of the PAK 2 protein. Mutated versions of the gene may then be used in mammalian cells to study impact on normal and cancer cells.

“Every scientist knows the importance of mentoring opportunities like the ones that our students are experiencing through this collaboration,” Dr. DiPino says. “Their work today will likely lead to life-long research partnerships adding even greater value to the work they are doing in the laboratory.”

Dr. Ling serves as director of the Office of Research Compliance at TCMC. He holds a Ph. D. in biochemistry from the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, a master’s degree in plant physiology and biochemistry from the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from AaHui Normal University.