MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –Yon Rojanasakul, Ph.D., has dedicated his career to cancer research. “Cancer is a disease that affects so many lives,” he said. “Almost everyone has someone close to them affected by the disease, and some may even be affected themselves. Cancer is difficult to treat because of the lack of basic understanding of the disease process.”
Through his research on how cancer cells become resistant to death and why they gain competitive growth advantages over normal cells, Dr. Rojanasakul hopes to identify the causes of cancer and develop more effective treatment strategies for the disease. It is because of this research that he was selected for the distinguished Robert C. Byrd Professorship.
The award — the highest honor the WVU Research Corporation bestows to faculty researchers — was named in honor of the late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd and recognizes faculty for their leadership in research and outstanding achievements in their field and other scholarly activities.
Rojanasakul is a professor in the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences. The focus of this department is to determine how disease and external factors influence one’s health and then discover medications and treatment methods for them. “Basic research into cancer helps to identify causes and develop strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatments,” he said.
Over the course of his tenure at the WVU School of Pharmacy, Rojanasakul has mentored numerous graduate students in the School’s Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences graduate pathway, as well as visiting international students interested in conducting cancer research. He has also been honored with eight School of Pharmacy Outstanding Teaching awards from students in the Doctor of Pharmacy professional program.
Rojanasakul has not only been recognized for his love of making a difference in the classroom but also his passion for making a difference through research. In addition to being awarded the prestigious Byrd Professorship, Rojanasakul was selected as a 2009 Benedum Distinguished Scholar award recipient — the University’s premier research honor.
Rojanasakul has been awarded numerous grants over the past decade to fund his research. His most recent award — a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH NHLBI) — will fund research in identifying whether or not exposure to carbon nanotubes — one of the most commonly used nanomaterials in commercial and biomedical applications — causes scarring and inflammation of the lungs.
Rojanasakul, along with WVU Professor Arun Ross, Ph.D, in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, received the honor of the Robert C. Byrd Professorship during a ceremony on Tuesday, March 15.