Did YU find a treatment for bladder cancer?

January 5, 2016  

Dr. Marina Holz, the Doris and Dr. Ira Kukin Chair in Biology at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, and her student Sara Leora Wiener, a sophomore from Edison, New Jersey, have been awarded a $1,500 Mindlin Foundation Undergraduate Research Grant to support their study of a potential treatment for bladder cancer.

Titled “Combination of rapamycin and resveratrol for treatment of bladder cancer,” the project is the focus of the thesis Wiener is drafting as a member of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Stern, under Holz’s mentorship. Wiener has been conducting research in Holz’s lab since her first year on campus, concentrating on the mTOR pathway, a cell signaling pathway that is involved in regulating cell growth and proliferation.

“In different cancers, this pathway is inappropriately activated and cell proliferation regulation is compromised,” said Wiener. “Cancer is a multifaceted disease, and each patient’s cancer is different on the molecular level. Because cancer is constantly evolving, there is always more to learn and understand about the disease, which presents a unique opportunity for me as a student researcher. Working in Dr. Holz’s research lab has started me on the path towards understanding and hopefully treating different forms of cancer.”

The Mindlin Foundation supports promising undergraduate research in the sciences or engineering through mentored research projects that introduce students to academic research and have real-world impact that will be relevant beyond the academic sphere. Wiener hopes to use the grant as a means to continue her study of the mTOR pathway’s effect on bladder cancer and attend research conferences that will further her understanding of the field of cancer research.

“This award is significant because it recognizes the commitment of Yeshiva University and Stern College for Women to excellence in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), mentorship of women in science and support for academic research,” said Holz. “Sara Leora is such a joy to have in lab. She is excited about science and discovery and driven to understand the molecular basis of disease because she understands that basic science informs the clinical practice, and vise versa.”

“Dr. Holz has been a constant source of encouragement and advisement since the start of my freshman year in her Honors Biology Principles class,” said Wiener. “Together with postdoctoral researcher Dr. Anya Alayev and my fellow student researchers Adi Berman and Naomi Schwartz, she afforded me the opportunity to learn valuable research skills in her cancer research lab, propelling me to pursue a research project that will contribute to my honors thesis. Dr. Holz has constantly encouraged me to apply for scholarships and grants that will immeasurably help me in my career.”

Currently, Wiener volunteers as a member of the C.A.R.E program in the Geriatric Emergency Department at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she is responsible for engaging in conversation with patients to keep them aware of their surroundings and decrease their risk of delirium. She has also enjoyed taking advantage of the vibrant student life on campus at YU, serving as costume designer in the Stern College Dramatic Society and participating in a lobbying mission to Washington, D.C. last semester as a member of the Israel Club. After graduation, Wiener hopes to become a physician-scientist by earning an M.D./Ph.D in oncological sciences.

“I am passionate about continuing my cancer research as well as engaging in hands-on experience of treating patients and contributing to the success of future treatments,” she said.

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