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The 2016-2017 Mike & Lucy Robbins Graduate Scholarship Award Winner

randrewsRachel Andrews, PhD Candidate
Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Molecular Medicine and Translational Sciences

 Research Overview:
200,000 patients per year will receive whole-brain radiotherapy for the treatment of primary and metastatic brain cancer. As a consequence of this treatment, 40-50% of patients will go on to experience progressive memory loss and cognitive decline – in some cases, despite successful resolution of their cancer. This debilitating loss of function is associated with multifocal cerebrovascular injury and white matter necrosis.

Dr. Andrews is currently investigating the pathogenic mechanisms of late-delayed radiation-induced cerebrovascular and white matter injury through gene expression analysis by RT-qPCR. Her research has determined that the perivascular deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, including fibronectin and collagen, contribute to the formation of perivascular fibrous plaques, which may impair the diffusion of oxygen and nutrients to dependent white matter. She is currently focused on further characterizing the distribution of ECM components within these plaques, and identifying pathways which contribute to fibrous plaque formation. Her additional research focuses on determining the immunophenotype of macrophage/microglial mediated neuroinflammation in late-delayed radiation-induced brain injury, and investigating the loss of glutamatergic neurotransmitters within deep white matter.

The primary goal of this research is to elucidate the key molecules and pathways involved in radiation induced brain injury, and to identify points of therapeutic intervention to develop treatments for affected patients.

Award Overview:
The Lucy Robbins Fellowship Award was established in the spring of 2005 in memory of Lucy Robbins, the late wife of WFUHS faculty member Dr. Mike Robbins.  In 2014 the award was renamed the Mike and Lucy Robbins Fellowship Award.  The award will be given annually to a graduate student conducting cancer-related research and will be based on academic ability, including outstanding academic and research expertise, demonstrated leadership, outstanding interpersonal skills and a commitment to the ideals of excellence in academic research. The recipient of the Mike and Lucy Robbins Fellowship award will be selected by a committee of graduate faculty. For 2016-2017, the award will consist of a monetary award and a certificate of recognition.