Innovative research

Finding ways to make cancer treatment less toxic and more effective.

Dr. Annelise Nguyen is working to find improved ways of treating breast cancer. She and another K-State professor have patented a method that enhances cell communications, improving the passage of chemotherapy drugs from one cell to the next. This would decrease drug dosage levels and make cancer cells less resistant to drugs.

Gifts investing in cancer research at K-State are helping Nguyen, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and other researchers make these important advances. “Philanthropy supports students in my lab who help me answer these research questions and also buys lab technology,” Nguyen said. “Biomedical research is not cheap.”

The desire to find an alternative to costly animal-based research led to another patent at K-State. “The traditional approach of using hundreds of mice for testing drug effectiveness in biological systems can cost thousands of dollars, so it’s quite expensive to test compounds that could potentially be a cancer drug,” Nguyen said. “We tried to find a viable alternative to animal-based research by creating a micro-environment in a test tube that has the exact same environment as a living animal. In the process, we created PepGel, which provides a three-dimensional environment where we can more accurately test how a compound will respond in a clinical trial.”

Nguyen’s research is partially supported by a recent gift from the Flossie E. West Memorial Trust in Augusta, Kansas. “The directive of the trust is to fund cancer research,” said Dave Bisagno, one of three managing trustees of the trust and a K-State alumnus. “The founder of the trust set it up in honor of his wife, who had cancer. With my ties to K-State, I wanted to support the exciting research happening at K-State.”

That support is making a difference now and well into the future. The Johnson Cancer Research Center at K-State provides nearly $500,000 a year from privately donated

funds to support about 100 K-State cancer research teams. This funding often provides the leverage needed to win large grants that will provide dividends over the years in K-State’s fight against cancer.

Nguyen uses donor funds to meet with other cancer researchers at conferences where they can share their findings with each other and advance cancer research overall. These funds also support the students in her lab who are doing important research alongside Nguyen and other K-State cancer researchers. “I train more than 40 undergraduate and graduate students,” Nguyen said. “They are the future of cancer research.”

To support the Johnson Cancer Research Center, please contact Shelley Carver at 785-532-7510 or


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