Mansfield University biology student and professor present research at national cancer conference

Adrianna Vaskas ’19 presenting research on pancreatic cancer.

BOSTON, Mass. – Dr. Kristen Long, Assistant Professor of Biology, and Adrianna Vaskas, a May 2019 Cell and Molecular Biology graduate, presented research on pancreatic cancer at the 2019 American Association of Cancer Research’s Pancreatic Cancer: Advances in Science and Clinical Care conference.

The national conference, held from September 6-9 in Boston, attracted research scientists, physicians, and students from across the globe.

The four-day conference focusing on pancreatic cancer, addressed challenging facets unique to the disease, including: the tumor microenvironment, genomics, immunology, early stage trials and novel treatment combinations, Ras and oncogene signaling, prevention and early detection, metabolism, and new model systems. Key presentations were given by members of the Stand Up to Cancer-Lustgarten Foundation Dream Team, which includes elite scientists and researchers from top cancer centers across the United States.

In addition to plenary sessions comprised of research talks, there were three poster sessions that included almost 200 poster presentations. Mansfield, along with the University of Pennsylvania, was one of just two institutions from the state of Pennsylvania to have representatives present at the conference and was the only primarily undergraduate institution without an affiliated graduate or medical school.

Vaskas’ presentation depicted and explained observations of T cell-dependent resistance to curcumin, a novel cancer therapy currently under evaluation in Phase II clinical trials for other solid malignancies. In short, she found that tumor-bearing mice lacking T cells, an immune cell important in fighting infections, responded well to the therapy, whereas mice with functional T cells did not respond to the therapy. The finding warrants additional studies in order to understand this mechanism and enhance the therapy’s potential success in the clinic.

Vaskas earned numerous honors while attending Mansfield including the Department of Biology’s Outstanding Senior award, Mansfield sole nominee for the PASSHE Ali-Zaidi Award as selected by the Deans and the Provost, and a research scholarship from NASA and the Pennsylvania State Grant Consortium that helped to support this project.

“The conference was an amazing opportunity to share our research and network with fellow scientists as well as learn more about the progress other researchers have made in fighting this deadly disease,” said Vaskas. “This experience has further fueled my passion for my future career in research and medicine.”

Vaskas, who is pursuing a career in medicine, helped the research project grow to include collaborations with a pharmaceutical company and researchers at Penn.

The American Association for Cancer Research is the world’s first and largest professional association focusing on cancer research, and its mission “is to prevent and cure cancer through research, education, communication, collaboration, funding, and advocacy”. For more information on AACR, visit