At Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center, we’re continually looking for the innovations of tomorrow. Who will discover the next breakthrough in cancer treatment – or even the next cure?
The answer lies in research – and it’s a key part of our vision at MMCC.
Owensboro Cancer Research Program
Established as a joint venture between Owensboro Health and the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, the Owensboro Cancer Research Program has a deceptively simple goal: unlocking the potential of plant-based therapies.
In medical jargon, we focus on using plant-based expression systems to produce protein-based therapeutics and diagnostic reagents for clinical trials and commercial production. In simple terms, that means we’re finding ways to extract proteins and other chemicals from plants so we can turn them into accessible, affordable cancer treatments.
OCRP In The News
One example of our research success appeared in a prestigious academic journal in March 2009.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
featured research by Kenneth Palmer, Ph.D., touting a protein called
griffithsin, which binds sugar molecules on the surface of HIV, preventing the virus from infecting cells of the immune system.
HIV research is one of OCRP’s strategic initiatives because the virus increases an individual’s risk for cancer.
One of the current major research studies at OCRP is the development of a second-generation cervical cancer vaccine from tobacco plants. Vaccines like this will be both accessible and affordable to millions of women worldwide, from India to sub-Saharan Africa and across rural areas of the United States.
Other key projects underway at OCRP include:
- Developing a plant-based vaccine to prevent HIV.
- Understanding how changes in the calcium-signaling pathway of stem cells impacts the development and continued growth of lung cancer cells.
- Determining whether the interaction of the heavy metal cadmium with tobacco-derived carcinogens contributes to the development of lung cancer in smokers.
Other recent accomplishments in cancer research include:
Since our launch in 2007, OCRP has grown to 24 researchers, including eight Ph.D. scientists. Our current faculty members and their research interests are:
Keith Davis, Ph.D.
Professor and Executive Director Plant biotechnology and the improvement of plant-based protein expression and vaccine production, the development of the soy peptide lunasin as an anti-cancer agent and the role of cadmium in the initiation of lung cancer.
Kenneth Palmer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Development of a new plant-expressed HPV vaccine for cervical cancer, and development of a novel antiviral protein with broad activity against HIV and potential bioterrorism agents such as Ebola virus.
Uma Sankar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Regulation of hematopoitic stem cell development and blood-based cancers and identification of genes important for cancer stem cell survival.
Nobuyuki Matoba, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Development of plant-based HIV and cancer vaccines.
To learn more about the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, call (270) 688-3694 or email executive director Keith Davis, Ph.D.
Another critical – and growing – part of Owensboro Health's cancer research efforts is Kentucky Bioprocessing (KBP), an Owensboro-based laboratory that specializes in producing proteins for plant-made pharmaceuticals.
KPB is the world leader in the expression, purification and commercial-scale production of proteins and other plant products. KBP supports the work of the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, and will play a significant role in bringing an HIV drug to market.
OCRP and KBP have together created 37 jobs in the Owensboro area, as well as attracting biotechnology companies Intrucept Biomedicine and Mapp Pharmaceutical.
Former Owensboro Health Board Member Bob Carper on the significance of KBP to the Owensboro region.
Ten weeks at a world-class, state-of-the-art cancer research facility. Learn hands-on laboratory techniques from nationally renowned scientists. Contribute to ongoing research projects in areas such as cancer biology and plant-made pharmaceuticals.
How much would you learn? How much would you grow?
Ready for the Challenge?
If that sounds like a great summer to you, the Owensboro Cancer Research Program could be just the opportunity for you. OCRP is partnering with the Owensboro Health Foundation for Health’s Medicus Society to offer full-time research internships for pre-medical and pre-dental undergraduate students.
The program offers pre-professional students a rigorous research experience under the guidance of an OCRP faculty mentor. We think you'll love Owensboro - and a summer at OCRP will be an experience that could shape your future.
How it Works
- OCRP is housed in the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center (MCCC), located on the Owensboro Health main campus.
- Each student participant will receive a stipend of $3,500 over the ten-week period.
- Free communal housing is available with other interns and medical students participating in OCRP summer research programs.
All pre-medical and pre-dental students are eligible to apply if they:
- Are completing their junior year of college prior to the start of the program; AND/OR
- Have completed introductory chemistry and biology courses.
How to apply
Download an application
In addition to the application form, applicants should submit:
- One page description of career goals
- Two letters of reference from the applicant's home institution
Electronic submission (preferred): firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith R. Davis, Ph.D.
Medicus Society Summer Research Intern Program
Suite 201 , Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center
1020 Breckenridge Street
Owensboro, KY 42303
For more information about our cancer research programs and clinical trials, call MMCC at (800) 947-7102 or (270) 688-3600.