Mar. 27, 2012

Graduating Senior Earns NCI Fellowship with Renowned Cancer Researcher


GENESEO, N.Y. - SUNY Geneseo senior Greg Roloff's desire to become a physician/researcher has received a major boost with his acceptance as a research fellow at a National Cancer Institute (NCI) lab doing cutting-edge work on the genetics of cancer.

NCI is part of the federal government's National Institutes of Health, one of the world's foremost medical research organizations. After graduating in May, Roloff will begin the one-year fellowship at the Betheada, Md., facility under the tutelage of NCI senior investigator Tom Misteli, an internationally renowned expert in genome cell biology and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cell Biology. Roloff will be working with Misteli and his team on identifying how the genome functions in the greater cellular context, looking specifically at whether the reorganization of chromosomes may be a factor in a cell turning cancerous.

"I don't think the scope of this opportunity has totally sunk in, but I'm quite pleased and fortunate to be involved," said Roloff, from West Seneca, N.Y., near Buffalo. "I'll be part of chasing the cure, and to be doing it with one of the leading cancer researchers in the world is very motivating."

The highly competitive fellowship provides recent college graduates who are planning to apply to a graduate or professional school an opportunity to spend time performing full-time research at NIH. Between six and seven percent of those who applied for the fellowships were accepted this year. Roloff, who plans to attend medical school after the fellowship, will be the only undergraduate-credentialed student working with Misteli on this research.

Misteli and his team are examining the relationship of a cell's hereditary information in cancer development and if the spatial relocation of genes within cells is a marker for the existence of cancer cells.

"This relocation seems to happen in the early stages of cancer development so this work has the potential of leading to the detection of cancers much earlier than we are able to do today," said Roloff. "It also could lead to more accurate prediction of outcomes."

Roloff credits his training at Geneseo for "bringing it all together" to land the NCI fellowship.

"I was drilled for more than two hours on in-depth science for this fellowship and I was well-prepared to answer the questions."

Roloff specifically acknowledged the genetics training he received from Kevin Militello, associate professor of biology; the cell biology fundamentals he received from Elisabeth Paulson, assistant professor of biology; and the cancer research experience he has had in the lab of Robert O'Donnell, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biology.

"We faculty members always like to see students succeed," said O'Donnell. "We highly value conscientious, mature and motivated students like Greg and this fellowship will make him a better physician/scientist in the future."

O'Donnell is advising Roloff on his senior honors thesis, for which he is investigating how 5-Azacytidine, a drug used to treat a rare form of blood cancer, may be beneficial in treating breast cancer. He's also applying what he finds in the lab to consider how the drug works on the genetic level.

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