The West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence awarded Shepherd University a three-year, $431,762 grant to continue a multidepartment project that is developing and testing mathematical models to determine how to treat cancer tumors.
Dr. Qing Wang, associate professor of mathematics, said the grant supports a project that involves math, computer science, and science students who help do research on using computer modeling to determine how immunotherapy and chemotherapy impact tumor growth. The goal is to determine what frequency and dosage of the combination of therapies have the maximum benefit to cancer patients.
“We hope this can provide a direction to help doctors make decisions on how to combine the therapy, and at what frequency and dosage, to reduce or eliminate the tumor,” Wang said.
The project involves using data found in published studies and studies that are currently underway to create computer models that determine what combination and amount of immunotherapy and chemotherapy are needed to treat a specific tumor.
The three-year grant will allow Shepherd to hire students to work alongside professors to conduct the research. Wang said this year about seven students will participate. Dr. Robert Warburton, professor of biochemistry, is the biology consultant for the project, and Dr. Zhijun Wang, associate professor of computer science, is the computer science consultant. Dr. David Klinke, West Virginia University associate professor of chemical engineering, is the mentor.
The IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence is a National Institutes of Health program that provides grants for biomedical research to 23 states and Puerto Rico. The goal of West Virginia’s program is to develop and enhance a network of multidisciplinary statewide biomedical research, provide opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in research, and to enhance the science and technology knowledge of the state’s workforce.
The research network is led by Marshall University and WVU. It includes 13 other institutions throughout the state. Wang said the grant gives Shepherd students the opportunity to spend part of their summer helping with research in labs at WVU.
“This grant provides opportunities for students to work with faculty members outside Shepherd,” Wang said. “They also work in the biology and computer labs here with Shepherd faculty members gaining knowledge in biology, math, and computer science. I think that will be beneficial for their future career options.”
This is the second West Virginia IDeA Network grant Shepherd has received. In the spring of 2012 Wang was awarded a two-year, $223,928 grant which Shepherd matched with $36,150 to begin the research project.
Science teachers from area high schools can also take part in the program. Wang said in the past two years under the previous grant, teachers from Jefferson, Spring Mills and Hedgesville high schools participated in summer internships at Shepherd.
That grant, which ran from May 2012-July 2014, allowed nine Shepherd students to be involved in the research. Wang said those students gave 12 presentations at undergraduate research conferences and co-authored one conference research paper with faculty.