Susan F. Radka, PhD
"I moved to Grand Junction from the Front Range under the assumption that I was retiring from my 35 year career as a research scientist. I found that my love of doing research didn't end when my career did. Becoming a part of Saccomanno Research Institute has fulfilled my need to do something I love and to contribute in a small way to improving the well-being of our community."
Dr. Radka received her Ph.D. in Experimental Pathology with an emphasis on Immunogenetics from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in Transplantation Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, Dr. Radka became a faculty member of the Duke University School of Medicine. Her expertise in generating monoclonal antibodies to poorly immunogenic molecules attracted the attention of the newly emerging world of biotechnology; there she pursued research and development of cytokines, growth factors, ribozymes, and RNAi as potential anti-angiogenic therapeutics. She gained an understanding of the complex series of events involved in the process of carcinogenesis, and she is now being applying that knowledge to her research endeavors at the Saccomanno Research Institute.
Adult stem cells are rare populations of cells that maintain the normal turnover of tissues and act as a repair system to replenish specialized cells after tissue damage. Evidence is accumulating that cancer stem cells, having properties similar to adults stem cells, especially self-renewal, may play an important role in tumor initiation and metastasis. Tumor stem cells have been identified in a number of different types of cancer, including breast, colon, pancreatic, and lung. Because lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of these cancers, and is less well studied for the presence of tumor stem cells, Dr Radka and the physicians at St Mary's Hospital are working together to develop methods to identify these rare cells in the tumors of lung cancer patients, and assess whether these tumor initiating cell can also be detected in patients' blood. She is using novel technologies such as microfluidics in which rare cell populations such as tumor stem cells can be captured from a mixture of many different types of cells that are present in lung tumors. This technique would allow comparison of tumor stem cells with normal adult stem cells by biochemical and molecular techniques to identify differences between them. Identifying properties or markers unique to tumor stem cells could be the basis for a diagnostic test allowing earlier detection of lung cancer than the currently available methods, potentially improving survival rates for this deadly disease.
Click PubMed.gov for a listing of publications by Susan F. Radka, PhD.