Since she was 7, graduate student Pranita Kaphle has wanted to make a difference in the field of cancer research. Attending graduate school at Wichita State University has allowed her to do just that.
She was inspired to find a treatment after losing an aunt to cancer, and the high death rate of glioblastoma cancer continues to motivate her.
“Many scientists and researchers are doing research on these tumor cells because they’re very aggressive and invasive,” says Kaphle. “What distinguishes my research from others’ is I’m using a 3D culture that mimics our body, and my process is entirely different.”
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), also known as grade IV astrocytoma, is an extremely rapid-spreading and aggressive tumor commonly found in the central nervous system. It typically arises from supportive cells found in the brain.
Glioblastoma is the most common type of brain tumor and is often associated with a poor prognosis and high mortality rate. The likelihood of developing this tumor increases with age and is most commonly found in adults 45-65 years old. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, the average survival time following diagnosis is only 14 months.
Although there are many treatments available for GBM, including surgical removal, chemotherapy and radiation, the prognosis remains poor and quality of life diminishes.
“If I will be able to use an inhibitor to block the cancer cell invasion, it could be a therapeutic target of glioblastoma multiforme,” says Kaphle.
Kaphle is creating an innovative lab test that will allow her to test highly invasive cancer cells in a 3D environment, showing an accurate model of how these cells invade in the brain.
Studying with Li Yao, assistant professor of biological sciences, Kaphle is using a hydrogel to study the process of tumor invasion. She’s looking for a way to inhibit the rapid spread of the cancer cells.
“There are many different molecules that play a role in the migration of the cancer cells,” she says. “I’m targeting different molecules, using different types of inhibitors to stop their pathways.”
Kaphle began her studies in Nepal, but was in search of a university doing more in the area of cancer cell research. She heard about Wichita State from friends and began looking into the research going on here. She was thrilled to find there were WSU professors researching glioblastoma cells and applied to transfer.
Kaphle has found this support outside of the classroom as well, which she says is extremely helpful in her success as an international student.
She will graduate in December 2017 with a master’s degree in biological science and plans to continue her research with the glioblastoma cells.