Research on Glioblastoma Multiforme

The summer of my junior year I worked more than 200 hours at the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. I was researching Glioblastoma Multiforme, the most deadly and aggressive from of cancer. I worked directly with a PhD, being allowed to try my own hypotheses and being tasked with streamlining the data acquisition and analysis processes.  I placed top 10 in my school's STEMM Symposium and advanced to NEOSEF. I placed 2nd in biology, and won to two research awards (Case Western Outstanding Presenter and Lerner Research Grant).

Initial Grant Proposal

Rationale: Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is one of the most deadly cancers, with a WHO grade of IV. GBM is a diffusive brain cancer meaning it does not stay as a singular lump in the brain, but spreads throughout the brain. Serotonin (5HT), a regulatory chemical found in the body, is involved in Stem cell growth and moderation of emotion. Studies have shown that patients with GBM have the lowest levels of serotonin out of cancer patients. Our objective is to examine different patient strains of GBM, and see its reaction to varying levels of serotonin, to prove that serotonin is a GBM accelerant.


Hypothesis: Our hypothesis is that adding concentrations of serotonin to lines of hGBM will cause increased proliferation. This hypothesis is based on previous medical research looking at cancer growth versus usage of serotonin based anti-depressants.


Procedures: Primary procedures will be imaging and quantifying different lines of hGBM following daily serotonin spikes at increments of 0ng/ml, 10ng/ml, 100ng/ml and 1000ng/ml of 5HT (serotonin). I will be using DAPI imaging and ImageJ quantification to quantify and analyze growth after spiking. Other tasks will be performing Western Analysis looking for serotonin receptors in the lines of hGBM.


Risk and Safety: I need to be careful with the imaging and other things that put me in close contact with the lines of hGBM. I will be wearing gloves and the proper clothes while keeping the containers sealed during imaging and under a hood during any work.


Data Analysis: I will be using an ImageJ technique that counts the nuclei in the DAPI image using different color thresholds. With that information I will compare the results with the control to the results with the different increments of 5HT and see if there is a significant change. I will then repeat the experiment.



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  2. 2. Neuro Oncol. 2016; The intersection of cancer, cancer stem cells, and the immune system: therapeutic opportunities; Silver DJ, Sinyuk M, Vogelbaum MA, Ahluwalia MS, Lathia JD.

  3. 3. N Engl J Med. 2008; Malignant gliomas in adults; Wen PY, Kesari S.


From my summer of research we were able to prove a strong link between GBM proliferation and increased amounts of 5HT. This research is substantial as it can help illuminate proper treatment for depressed GBM patients. Instead of prescribing them with 5HT based antidepressants (potentially accelerating their cancer by months), doctors can look for more effect non-5HT drugs. 


This summer I was able to streamline the data acquisition process, while working to keep it an objective process. I learned various different lab techniques and skills, while also observing organizational behavior and cultural growth. I will use this experience to guide me in a future of public policy and leadership.