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Rebecca Borneman, a fourth-year medical student at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, has won three awards for research on an anti-cancer compound at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute.

Published Apr 13th, 2021

By Carol McPhail

Research on an anti-cancer compound at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute has landed a California medical student three awards for findings showing that the compound decreased ovarian cancer cell growth in cell lines and in egg-laying hens.

Rebecca Borneman, a fourth-year medical student at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, won the Best Medical Student Oral Presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Gynecologic Oncology Society meeting, a Doreen J. Putrah Cancer Research Foundation Scholar-in-Training Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and a Dean’s Award for long-term research at the UCSF School of Medicine.

“I am thrilled to have received these awards for my research,” said Borneman, who spent the past year in the MCI GYN oncology lab directed by Jennifer Scalici, M.D., professor of oncologic sciences. “MCI was a wonderful place to work and learn for the year that I was there.”

Last year, Borneman took a gap year from her studies and relocated to Pensacola, Fla., where her husband is stationed in the Navy. She looked around for opportunities to conduct basic research and discovered the gynecologic oncology group at MCI. “It seemed like a wonderful group to work with and had a lot of interesting research going on,” Borneman said.

She joined the lab’s project to study the new anti-cancer compound, a novel NSAID-derived phosphodiesterase inhibitor. Luciana Madeira da Silva, Ph.D., research assistant professor of oncologic sciences, leads the basic science and biomarker aspects of the projects and oversaw Borneman’s work.

“I studied this compound in ovarian cancer cell lines and further investigated the phosphodiesterase it targets – phosphodiesterase 10A or PDE10A – as a therapeutic and chemo-preventive target for ovarian cancer,” she said. “We found that inhibiting PDE10A decreased ovarian cancer cell growth and its migratory and invasive potential as well as induced cell cycle arrest and cell death.”

The researchers found that these activities occurred through down regulation of key oncogenic pathways, including the beta-catenin pathway and the RAS/ERK and AKT pathways. They also studied the anti-cancer compound in egg-laying hens. “We found that the same oncogenic pathways were inhibited and that a number of immune and inflammatory pathways were down regulated in the ovarian cancer of hens by the compound,” she said.

Borneman gave an oral presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Gynecologic Oncology Society meeting in October and submitted abstracts to the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), the AACR and UCSF School of Medicine. She recently learned that she won a Dean’s Award at UCSF after having been named one of 11 finalists. Borneman will start her OB/GYN residency training at Yale University this summer.

Scalici said that the lab continues to play a key role in training physician-scientists, including future trainees in USA Health’s new Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship Program.

“The awards are a huge reflection on the work being done in our lab, and she has been a pioneer in terms of the integration of a dedicated trainee into our work,” Scalici said. “She came in, learned about our hypothesis and really took ownership of developing this project, following the science where it led her. We are so excited that she is seeing her hard work catch the eye of the AACR.”

Scalici said Borneman’s research validates the research team’s hypothesis and direction in terms of understanding the origins of ovary cancer and how to prevent it. “She has been integral in this work and has a bright future ahead of her!” she said.

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