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Student Research Spotlight

Joining in the Fight for the Cure

Undergrad Kristie Griffith Involved in Cancer Research

Kristie Griffith and Dr. Joe BauerEvery once in a while the reality hits her. Walsh senior Kristie Griffith can become so absorbed in lab research that she sometimes forgets the magnitude of what it is she's working on....developing a treatment option for cancer.

"It is amazing to be a part of research of this caliber," said Griffith. "I get so caught up in the little details of lab work that sometimes I forget what it is we're actually working towards. And then it hits me all over again how many people this could potentially impact! I'm honored to be a part of such an important cause."

Since her sophomore year, senior Kristie Griffith has been working on the groundbreaking cancer treatment research with the Trojan-Horse vitamin B12-based compound, known as NO-CBL discovered by Walsh alum Dr. Joseph Bauer '94. When she is not in class, Griffith is in the Walsh science lab helping to conduct a portion of the promising cancer research. During her sophomore year, Griffith became involved in the project through her honors thesis advisor Dr. Michael Dunphy, Division of Mathematics and Science Chair and was able to work one-on-one with Dr. Joe Bauer in 2010. Her summers have been spent in the Walsh labs working on advancing NO-Cbl.

In 2011, Dr. Bauer's company BNOAT Oncology, Inc. was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Research Contract for $200,000 through the Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. With support from the grant, Dr. Bauer enlisted the aid of a team of Walsh students and professors to assist his company BNOAT Oncology, Inc. in the initial groundwork on the SBIR Phase 1 to advance the clinical development of NO-Cbl through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for cancer. The first phase, led by adjunct professor Dr. Joseph Lupica and Dr. Dunphy, analyzed the most patient-friendly administration for the drug compound – either oral or intravenous.

The research completed by the Kristie Griffith and the young scientists at Walsh was included on an FDA application to evaluate NO-CBL for a first-in-human clinical trial. The ultimate hope is that this research will lead to a revolutionary new medicine that could redefine the standard of care in cancer treatment for both humans and animals.

Cancer cells are known to carry receptors that draw vitamin B-12 into the tumor. While studying in graduate school Dr. Bauer began to wonder if B-12 could act as a Trojan horse and carry the deadly chemotherapy agent nitric oxide. The plan of attack would begin with the B-12 Trojan Horse making its way deep inside a cancer tumor and when there, activate and kill the cancer cell from the inside out. Once the cancer cell is dead and the nitric oxide no longer active, the vitamin B-12 would then move naturally into the blood stream and aid in the healing process of the patient.

Discovered by Dr. Bauer, the vitamin B-12 compound NO-Cbl is ideal for a student-lab setting because it is neither toxic nor potentially harmful like most chemotherapy compounds found in similar research projects.

"For the Walsh students involved, this is a great opportunity to work on a significant research project at the undergraduate level," said Dr. Lupica. "In many of the larger universities, research of this caliber would be relegated to the graduate students and professors."

Dr. Bauer has been a cancer researcher for more than ten years. His promising breakthroughs in cancer research and treatment in canine cancer cases have received international media attention and have been featured in US News and World Report, Forbes, Web MD, MSNBC Health and Medicine, The American Chemical Society and in several Northeast Ohio news programs and newspapers.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Walsh Times Summer 2011 issue.

Waste Not, Want Not: Writing the Book on Green Chemistry Procedures

Creating environmentally safe procedures in the nations chemistry labs

Joey RomarIt's a familiar site to most undergraduate freshman, the university chemistry lab. Across the country, most college students pursuing a bachelor's degree must take at least one science course with a laboratory component. At Walsh University, that translates into more than 2,000 individuals engaged in lab learning experiences over the course of any four year period. The waste generated from these chemistry learning experiences often requires special and expensive procedures for proper disposal.

Walsh senior Joey Romar has logged more than 4,500 hours of research under the direction of Dr. Michael Dunphy, Chair of Walsh's Division of Math & Science to develop, implement and disseminate a protocol for "green" chemistry procedures.

"Our goal is to create safer and more meaningful alternatives to the standard TLC lab experiments found in most high schools and colleges," said Romar. "We have been exploring new ways to create the same outcomes that are environmentally friendly, safer for students, less expensive and will minimize hazardous waste."

Funded by two generous grants from The Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, Romar has been working with Dr. Dunphy since her freshman year to explore environmentally safe procedures in separation tactics appropriate for first-year college and high school chemistry labs. She has also incorporated her research into her honors program thesis "Development of Green, Versatile and Pedagogically Rich Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC) Systems Suitable for Advanced High School and First Year College Labs."

Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC) is a simple, quick, and inexpensive procedure that gives the chemist a quick answer as to how many components are in a mixture. For example, students would use TLC to analyze that caffeine can be found in a common medication such as Tylenol. One standard use of the procedure TLC is to identify a wide range of drugs at various acceptable sensitivity levels. School labs across the country use TLC because it is considered a less expensive and easier method for utilizing separation science in the classroom.

Her research is already garnering national attention with results that could easily be transferred to institutions world-wide. Romar's poster entry titled "Thin-Layer Chromatography of Medications: A "Green" Undergraduate Lab Procedure," based in part on her honors thesis research, won first place at the National Collegiate Honors Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. "I don't often get a chance to combine my two loves – science and art," said Romar. "But in creating my winning poster, I was able to blend them together and create something that was visually appealing with heavy science principles."

The modified Thin-Layer Chromatography procedure developed by Joey Romar, Dr. Dunphy and fellow classmate Albert King was recently submitted to the Journal of Chemical Education. The TLC green procedure will also be piloted in Romar's alma mater Tuslaw High School chemistry lab. In addition, Romar has presented research associated with her honors thesis at several conferences including the National Collegiate Honors Conference, the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges and the Ohio Academy of Science.

Walsh's research into greener TLC methods is one of the first comprehensive resources on this new front and will be included in a Green Chemistry Lab Manual for use in high school and college science labs across the country.

Said Romar, "When I look past my own gain and realize that I've been a part of something that could impact the education of chemistry world-wide, I'm even more grateful for the entire experience. After four years of trial and error, I think we will be able to leave the world a little better than how we found it...and a little greener."

A version of this story originally appeared in the Walsh Times Winter 2012 issue.