MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Four undergraduate students completed cancer research fellowships at the West Virginia University Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center (MBRCC) this summer.   

Brooke Bertus, Tyler Calkins, Cyrus Hajiran and Zachary Phipps shared their research findings with their peers and mentors during a recent symposium at the Cancer Center.  

The highly competitive Summer Research Fellowship Program at the MBRCC provides funding and opportunities for undergraduate students who want to pursue careers in cancer research or medicine. Students receive a $4,000 stipend and are paired with a WVU cancer scientist for a 10-week research project.
Bertus studied the effects of high-risk human papillomavirus, a virus known to cause certain types of cancer, on the biogenesis of small molecules, called miRNAs. Her mentor was Ivan Martinez, Ph.D., in the WVU Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology. Bertus, daughter of Bernie and Debbie Bertus of Parkersburg, is a senior at WVU majoring in biology and chemistry with a minor in French.

Calkins, a senior exercise physiology major at WVU, studied how the varying presence of certain proteins in cancerous and normal breast cells changes cell sensitivity to anoikis, a form of programmed cell death. His mentor was Steven Frisch, Ph.D., in the WVU Department of Biochemistry. Calkins is the son of Keith and Christine Calkins of Mineral Wells.

The purpose of Hajiran’s research was to develop a minimally invasive molecular tool for the early detection and specific treatment of prostate cancer. His mentor was Letha Sooter, Ph.D., in the WVU Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences. Hajiran is the son of Dr. Homan and Rebecca Hajiran of Wheeling.  He is a senior biology major at WVU.

Phipps studied the process by which genes produce different proteins in tumor cells. Understanding this process will help guide the design of more advanced and selective cancer therapies. His mentor was Peter Stoilov, Ph.D., in the WVU Department of Biochemistry.  Phipps is the son of Laura Blanciforti and Tim Phipps of Morgantown. He is a senior at Wheeling Jesuit University and is majoring in biology.

Financial support for the fellowship program comes from the Edwin C. Spurlock Fellowship Fund, the Edward L. Reed Cancer Research Endowment, the Dr. David B. McClung Cancer Research Endowment Fund and the Joe Marconi Cancer Research Fellowship Endowment.

For information on the fellowship program at the WVU Cancer Center, see  

Photo caption: (From left to right) Tyler Calkins, Brooke Bertus, Cyrus Hajiran and Zachary Phipps presented the work they did as part of the WVU Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center’s Summer Research Fellowship Program on Thursday (Aug. 8) at the Cancer Center.
For more information: Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087
ss: 08-06-13