• Cancers
  • Immunology
  • Medical ethics
  • Pathology
  • Translational Cancer Research

Location: Ochsner Clinical School

Type of student: Both HDR and Extra-curricular

Type of work:

  • Chart reviews
  • Secondary data analysis
  • Statistical analysis
  • Wet lab work

Brief synopsis:

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most prevalent malignancies worldwide. It represents more than 8% of new cancer cases and deaths. Greater than 90% of the deaths are due to metastasis of the primary tumor. A significant racial disparity in the incidence and mortality of CRC exists in the U.S. with African Americans (AA) having CRC incidence and mortality rates that are approximately 20% and 40% higher than the general U.S. population, respectively. Family history of the disease, ethnicity, age, obesity, and higher incidence of microsatellite instability high (MSI-H) are among the factors that influence these disparities. MSI-H is one of the indicators for immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy in CRC.

To predict patient response including immune response to immune therapy, well-defined differentially expressed predictive and prognostic biomarkers are necessary. We hypothesize that individual and/or combinations of biomarkers that are differentially expressed at resection will predict patient prognosis and response to therapies, especially in the AA population. Our objective is to identify such biomarkers by analyzing paraffin embedded untreated tumor and adjacent normal tissue from 30 pairs of demographically matched AA and non-Hispanic White (NHW) CRC patients using tissue microarrays (TMAs). The differences in the immune profile between AA and NHW CRC patients will be tested using multi-plex IF staining and digital analysis including tumor infiltrating T cell, immune check point, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), CRC tumor initiating cell (Co-TIC) and tumor microenvironment biomarkers. Spatial biomarker expression analysis will be utilized to reveal candidate markers.

Location: Laboratory of Translational Cancer Research, Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Benson Cancer Center, 1N505, 1514 Jefferson Highway, New Orleans, LA 70121

Expected outcomes: Student will gain biological research experimental skills including multi-plex immunofluorescent staining, digital image analysis using HALO software and statistical analysis skills while participating in this project. He/she will have opportunities to generate reports such as abstract/poster or podium presentations at local, regional, and national research conferences of their research, e.g., Ochsner Research Day abstract/poster; LCRC Science Retreat abstract/poster; and/or Southern Regional Meeting abstract/podium presentation.

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from UQ/Ochsner Medical students with interests in translational cancer research and previous wet laboratory experience preferred.

Prerequisite skills: Previous wet laboratory experience preferred


Dr Li Li

Director of Translational Cancer Research Laboratory