Wendy McGinnis, MS1, receives Radiological Society of North America Medical Student Grant


Wendy McGinnis, MS1, has been selected to receive a Radiological Society of North America Medical Student Grant for her project entitled, “Suppression of the T cell Response and Enhancement of Detrimental Effects of Radiation on the Brain.”

The grant amount is $3,000 to be matched by the sponsoring department for $6,000 total support.

Here is a summary of her project: “In colorectal cancer, the immune infiltrate has been correlated with outcome. Patients with higher infiltrations of T cells have increased survival, independent of disease stage, while patients with poor immune infiltrates have severely limited survival. An improved immune environment in the tumor at the time of treatment increases the efficacy of radiation therapy, but it is unclear how immunotherapy might modulate the effects of radiation therapy on the brain. Radiation therapy is associated with cognitive impairments. The temporal lobe, and in particular the hippocampus, is sensitive to detrimental effects of radiation on cognition. The mechanisms underlying hippocampus-dependent cognitive impairments are not clear but are likely multifactorial and may involve alterations in neurogenesis, epigenetic modulation, and inflammation. Here the hypothesis that suppression of the T cell response using anti CTLA4 pretreatment will enhance the detrimental effects of radiation therapy on cognition and that this will be associated with enhanced CNS inflammation, including activation of newly born CD68-positive microglia, and reduced hippocampal neurogenesis and TET2 expression in a mouse model of colorectal cancer will be tested. Cognitive testing and analysis of immunohistochemical markers will be used to establish effects of combination therapy on the brain. Based on characterization of the CTLA4-mediated potentiation of radiation-driven brain inflammation, the long-term goal of this project is to test compounds able to reduce this inflammation to improve brain function in cancer survivors.”

The purpose of this grant is to “increase the opportunities for medical students to have a research experience in medical imaging and to encourage them to consider academic radiology as an important option for their future.”

Congratulations Wendy!

Pictured, from left to right: Jacob Raber, Ph.D., professor of behavioral neuroscience, radiation medicine and neurology; Charles Thomas, M.D., chair of radiation medicine, Wendy McGinnis, Michael Gough, Ph.D., research assistant professor of radiation medicine