Martin, Lenore

Advisor Department

Cell and Molecular Biology




topoisomerase inhibitors; chemotherapy; quality of life


Investigation of Improvements in the Quality of Life for Cancer Patients

Joelle Gagnon

Faculty Sponsor: Lenore Martin, CELS

The treatment of cancer has been a topic of study for decades due to the devastating effects of the disease and the need for a therapeutic regimen that presents maximum efficacy with minimal toxicity. For cancer patients, quality of life is disturbed by not only the pathogenesis of disease, but also the potential toxic effects on the body as a result of the prescribed therapeutic regimen. Topoisomerase inhibition is a molecular mechanism of action of chemotherapy agents that have been of clinical interest due to minimal hematologic and neutropenic side effects, such as thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) and (low blood cell count). Although the likelihood of hematological side effects as a result of treatment by topoisomerase inhibition is minimal, compared to other anticancer regimens, unwanted cytotoxicity caused by treatment with these drugs still poses a threat to the quality of life for a terminally ill cancer patient. The quality of life of the patients who are battling cancer is interrupted not only by the process of the disease, but also by the time and extra therapy needed to recuperate from the damaging side effects of the anticancer agent following treatments.

This project was designed to join together a hands-on laboratory research component with advanced training in the clinical skills needed to enhance the quality of life for cancer patients. The multifaceted resulting report, Investigations Towards Improvements in the Quality of Life for Cancer Patients, encompasses descriptions of laboratory observations of Type 1 Topoisomerase inhibition and the resulting molecular mechanisms of cytotoxicity on both purified DNA samples and cultured hepatic cancer cells, together with a summary of complementary clinical education obtained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City during the spring semester of 2011. The focus of this report is to enhance patient advocacy by bridging the gap between clinical practice and laboratory research aimed at improvements in oncology treatment. As an example of an interdisciplinary approach to cancer management, this project combines in-depth knowledge from laboratory research on novel pharmacological interventions with advances in bedside care strategies to model a new opportunity for promoting optimal health and quality of life for patients based on improved understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms by clinicians.