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Program Spotlight: University of Puerto Rico and MD Anderson Partnership Welcomes Its First Graduates, Dedicated to Researching Cancer Health Disparities

October 1, 2014, by CRCHD staff

UPR-MDA graduates Sergei Gumá-de La Vega (right) and Nahir Cortés-Santiago (left) in 2014.

UPR/MD Anderson Partnership’s first MD/PhD students Sergei Gumá-de La Vega (right) and Nahir Cortés-Santiago (left) in 2014. Photo credit: UPR.

CRCHD joins the Principal Investigators and Diversity Training co-leaders of the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center U54 Partnership for Excellence in Cancer Research in congratulating its first MDPhD graduates Sergei Gumá-de La Vega and Nahir Cortés-Santiago.

The UPR/MD Anderson Partnership was formalized and funded by an NCI Minority Institute Cancer Center U54 Partnership grant in 2002, and has maintained continuous funding. U54 is a mechanism under CRCHD’s Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (PACHE) program, which enables long-term collaborations between underrepresented-serving institutions and NCI-designated Cancer Centers to serve racially and ethnically diverse communities throughout the U.S. A major goal of UPR/MD Anderson partnership is to train the next generation of Hispanic physicians and scientists in cancer and cancer health disparities research, and help establish an infrastructure at Puerto Rico’s first cancer center (to open in Spring 2016) -- with a mutual aim to end health disparities among Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S.

The UPR/MD Anderson partnership began modestly with an 8-week summer rotation for undergraduate and medical students in the laboratories of MD Anderson faculty. In 2006 planning was initiated to implement an MD/PhD program involving MD Anderson, the University of Puerto Rico Medical School in San Juan and the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) in Houston, TX with the doctoral research to be conducted at MD Anderson. In 2008 a three-way agreement was signed between the institutions to begin an MD/PhD degree program with the UPR School of Medicine conferring the MD degree and the GSBS and MD Anderson conferring the PhD degree. The Partnership’s first medical students, Nahir Cortes and Sergei Guma, were accepted and matriculated to the GSBS in the fall of that same year to begin their PhD degrees. Both degrees were conferred on them in June 2014.  Both Drs. Cortes and Guma have launched their highly productive research careers with peer-reviewed papers and are now matched to residency programs. The Partnership’s PIs are pleased that there is a robust pipeline of MD/PhD candidates: currently ten trainees from Puerto Rico are in various stages of their PhD at the GSBS and two second-year medical students are applying this year. 

Meet the Graduates:

Sergei Gumá de La Vega, MDPhD completed a Bachelor’s degree in Science at MIT in 2004. He completed his first research rotation at MD Anderson in the summer of 2006, his second year of medical school at UPR. After this experience he expressed interest in pursuing an MD/PhD degree and was placed under the mentorship of Dr. Edna Mora, an oncologic surgeon and a member of the faculty of the UPR Cancer Center and School of Medicine. Dr Guma was admitted to the GSBS in his third year of medical school at UPR and began his PhD studies at GSBS and MD Anderson Cancer Center in the fall of 2008. He conducted his doctoral research in the laboratory of Eugenie Kleinerman, MD, Professor and Head, Division of Pediatrics. He presented his thesis dissertation “Combination Therapy with Aerosol IL-2 and NK Cells for the Treatment of Osteosarcoma Lung Metastasis” in December, 2013. In September 2014, he conducted a Pathology rotation at MD Anderson under the mentorship of Dr. Russell Broaddus after which he returned to Puerto Rico to complete his 4th year of medical school. He received his MD and PhD degree in June 2014. Dr. Gumá de La Vega  is currently a resident in the Pathology Residency Program at NYU, Langone Hospital, New York where he plans to continue his research. Other interests include: cancer research, immunotherapy, natural killer cells and hematopathology.

Publications:

1. Sergei R Guma, Dean A Lee, Yu Ling, Nancy Gordon, Eugenie S Kleinerman, Aerosol interleukin-2 induces natural killer cell proliferation in the lung and combination therapy improves the survival of mice with osteosarcoma lung metastasis. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2014 Aug 9;61(8):1362-8. Epub 2014 Mar 9.

2. Sergei R Guma, Dean A Lee, Ling Yu, Nancy Gordon, Dennis Hughes, John Stewart, Wei Lien Wang, Eugenie S Kleinerman. Natural killer cell therapy and aerosol interleukin-2 for the treatment of osteosarcoma lung metastasis. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2014 Apr 18;61(4):618-26. Epub 2013 Oct 18.

3. Chris P Gully, Guermarie Velazquez-Torres, Ji-Hyun Shin, Enrique Fuentes-Mattei, Edward Wang, Colin Carlock, Jian Chen, Daniel Rothenberg, Henry P Adams, Hyun Ho Choi, Sergei Guma, Liem Phan, Ping-Chieh Chou, Chun-Hui Su, Fanmao Zhang, Jiun-Sheng Chen, Tsung-Ying Yang, Sai-Ching J Yeung, Mong-Hong Lee, Aurora B. kinase phosphorylates and instigates degradation of p53. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012 Jun 18;109(24):E1513-22. Epub 2012 May 18.

 

Nahir Cortes-Santiago, MDPhD completed a Bachelor’s degree in Science at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez in 2004. She completed her first research rotation at MDACC during her senior year of medical school in 2008. She completed medical school at UPR School of Medicine in June 2009 and began her PhD studies at GSBS in the fall of that year. She conducted her PhD research at MDACC in the laboratory of Candelaria Gomez-Manzano, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Neuro Oncology. In May 2014 she presented her thesis “Understanding the Role of the Ang-Tie2 Pathway in the Resistance of Gliomas to Anti-VEGF Therapy.” She earned her PhD in June 2014. Currently she is a resident in the Pathology Residency Program at Baylor School of Medicine, in Houston. Future plans include conducting postdoctoral research in Pathology at MD Anderson, starting 2015. Other interests include: cancer immunology and advanced imaging techniques in cancer research. She also enjoys outdoor activities, such as sightseeing, camping, beach and river trips and reading.

Publications:

1. Konrad Gabrusiewicz; Dan Liu; Nahir Cortes-Santiago; Mohammad B. Hossain; Charles A. Conrad; Kenneth D. Aldape; Gregory N. Fuller; Frank C. Marini; Marta M. Alonso; Miguel Angel Idoate; et al. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy-induced glioma invasion is associated with accumulation of Tie2-expressing monocytes. Oncotarget. 2014;5(8):2208-2220.

2. Marta M. Alonso; Ricardo Diez-Valle; Lorea Manterola; Angel Rubio; Dan Liu; Nahir Cortes-Santiago; Leire Urquiza; Patricia Jauregi; Adolfo Lopez de Munain; Nicolás Sampron; et al. Genetic and epigenetic modifications of Sox2 contribute to the invasive phenotype of malignant gliomas. PLoS ONE. 2011;6(10):[e26740].

3. Marta M Alonso; Ricardo Diez-Valle; Lorea Manterola; Angel Rubio; Dan Liu; Nahir Cortes-Santiago; Leire Urquiza; Patricia Jauregi; Adolfo Lopez de Munain; Nicolás Sampron; et al. Genetic and epigenetic modifications of Sox2 contribute to the invasive phenotype of malignant gliomas. PloS one. 2011;6(11):e26740.

4. Dan Liu; Vanesa Martin; Juan Fueyo; Ok-Hee Lee; Jing Xu; Nahir Cortes-Santiago; Marta M Alonso; Kenneth Aldape; Howard Colman; Candelaria Gomez-Manzano. Tie2/TEK modulates the interaction of glioma and brain tumor stem cells with endothelial cells and promotes an invasive phenotype. Oncotarget. 2010;1(8):700-709.

Resources:

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