Sixteen year-old Ashley Rodriguez of the Washington DC Area sits in Dr. Jaime Modiano office at the University of Minnesota, surrounded by the hemangiosarcoma research team of Dr. Jong Hyuk Kim and lab tech Ashley Graef. She carefully explains how she lost her beloved Golden Retriever, Daisey, to hemangiosarcoma (which causes the death of 20% of all Golden Retrievers) and mentions a research project for eleventh grade science and engineering.
After losing her dog, Ashley diligently began reading everything she could find about hemangiosarcoma in medical and veterinary journals. It was an article by Dr. Modiano that clearly sparked her interest. After peppering him with lots of questions in an email, he wrote back and later called her to answer her questions. He asked her to identify one question that she wanted to answer with research. Impressed by this high schooler’s passion, enthusiasm, and strong scientific ability, he arranged for her to come to work in his lab for the summer.
Ashley jumped at the opportunity and has been in Minnesota for several weeks, working with Dr. Kim and Ms. Graef on the possible use of a drug already used for MS in humans (FTY-720), to determine if it could kill hemangiosarcoma cells in their early stages of development. She enthusiastically reports that the early results show promise. She says she has been accepted as a full member of the lab and has learned a great deal about scientific questions, techniques, and troubleshooting when a problem arises.
Dr. Kim and Ms. Graef say they have benefitted by Ashley’s intelligent questions, which spur them to go over every aspect of the problem with fresh eyes. It is easy to imagine this team immersing themselves in their sarcoma work with great results. Ashley will soon return to her high school and continue to work on aspects of the project that can be done without the high tech equipment found in Dr. Modiano’s lab. Dr. Modiano will reciprocate by sending her materials and serving as an advisor. The team will pursue their research with vigor, and we look forward to hearing the outcome of this important work.
Dr. Modiano in speaking about Ashley said “It was a privilege to host Ashley in our lab this summer. This experience brought out the best in everyone in the lab. Her enthusiasm and insight provided new perspectives and generated new and exciting results that we will continue to follow. This was a great example of strategies we can use to recruit passionate young scientists at the beginning of their career to sarcoma research.”
Rein in Sarcoma sees Ashley’s story as one of hope and inspiration for all of our canine and human sarcoma patients. With early nurturing of bright young minds, we can look forward to increasing awareness and commitment to find cures for sarcomas, which have often been an over-looked disease in the war on cancer. We applaud Dr. Modiano and the other researchers who have supervised teams at the University of Minnesota to look for cures for sarcoma. Together, with organizations like Rein in Sarcoma who raise seed money for this kind of research, we may be able to say, “dogs are truly a cancer patient’s best friend”.
To Learn about RIS Funded Research for Dr. Modiano, Click here.
For more information for Dr. Modiano’s Lab, Click here.