PhD candidate in molecular & integrative physiology named finalist for Research Live! Showcase

Adam Nelczyk, PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology.

Update: Adam Nelczyk won the Illinois Graduate College's Research Live! People's Choice award for his presentation, "Frying Cured Meat Awakens Dormant Breast Cancer Cells."

A graduate student in the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology has been named a finalist for Illinois Graduate College’s Research Live! Showcase at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts.

Adam Nelczyk, a PhD candidate studying molecular and integrative physiology in Erik Nelson’s lab, will deliver a presentation about his investigation into how compounds in our diet can contribute to the re-awakening of dormant cancer cells. The phenomenon is thought to be responsible for many instances of metastatic recurrence in breast cancer.

“Sharing our work focused on how dietary choices impact the ability of dormant cancer cells to re-awaken at Research Live! is not only a great opportunity to discuss how our research could positively impact a major global public health challenge, but a chance to tell a science story that anyone in the audience can relate to," Nelczyk says. “As the most-diagnosed-cancer globally, breast cancer is a subject that has impacted almost everyone, either directly or indirectly. Research Live! provides an excellent venue to engage with the general public on this highly meaningful topic, and its relationship to one of our most habitual behaviors, our diet.”

Nelczyk says cancer cells that migrate from primary tumors to distal sites can often escape conventional therapy and remain in a state of dormancy for prolonged periods. While the precise mechanisms are still not fully understood, these cells can eventually “break” dormancy leading to metastatic outgrowth and clinical relapse.

“As the majority of breast cancer patient mortality is due to metastatic outgrowth, identifying factors that contribute to the 'breaking’ of dormancy is of paramount importance,” he explains. “I am particularly interested in how different preparation and processing of foods high in cholesterol, such as bacon, may promote the escape from tumor dormancy. Frying of such foodstuffs can produce cholesterol derivatives known to promote breast cancer growth and metastasis, as well as carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds (NOCs). The data gathered from this work not only has the potential to provide crucial mechanistic insights in regard to how cancer cells can re-awaken from a dormant state, but could also demonstrate how lifestyle habits could reduce breast cancer recurrence.”

Research Live! will take place on Stage 5, Tuesday, March 29 at 4:00 pm. The live event will include screenings of the finalists’ presentations, live voting for the people’s choice awards, and an announcement of the winners. The first-place winner will receive $300; second place will receive $200; third place will receive $150; and the people’s choice winner will receive $100.

This event will be livestreamed at go.grad.illinois.edu/eventspace for friends and family who cannot attend in person.

Written by Jennifer Lask.

See the full list of finalists and judges here.

March 11, 2022 All News