Kansas State University


Johnson Cancer Research Center Newsletter

Author: marcia


cover of Conquest 2020 magazine

See how K-State is fighting cancer in the Johnson Cancer Research Center’s 2020 Conquest magazine. Brief, easy-to-read stories showcase some of the excellent cancer research happening at K-State, and some of the friends who help make it possible.


  • Dr. Peying Fong and Dr. Jeffrey Comer, anatomy & physiology, study how substances like cancer drugs penetrate the cell membrane (single story)
  • Dr. Amir Bahadori, mechanical & nuclear engineering, studies ways to protect people from cancer caused by radiation (single story)
  • Dr. Jianzhong Yu, anatomy & physiology, studies proteins relevant to cell proliferation and tumor growth (single story)
  • Mackenzie Thornton, senior in microbiology and pre-medicine, studies how cancer cells thrive despite nutrient stress (single story)
  • Dr. Katsura Asano, biology, studies how alterations in cellular translation can initiate cancer formation (single story)
  • Lori Kautzman, MD, biology alumna, organ transplant surgeon supports the JCRC’s Cancer Research Award program (single story)
  • The Frank Alonso family organizes ‘You’ll Never Run Alone 5K’ in memory of him, to raise money for pancreatic cancer research (single story).

View 2020 Conquest



cervical cancer cells imaged with fluorescence microscopy
This image of cervical cancer cells was captured with fluorescence microscopy.

Nick Wallace, biology, received a $454,466 National Cancer Institute grant to study Cisplatin-resistant cervical cancers. read news release

Also, Dr. Wallace and Dr. Nick Wallaceteam’s study, “Beta-HPV 8E6 Attenuates LATS Phosphorylation After Failed Cytokinesis,” was published in the American Society for Microbiology’s Journal of Virology. view publication



Hippo Signaling Pathway diagram

Jianzhong Yu, anatomy & physiology, received a $1,580,922 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to uncover how an evolutionary pathway may affect tumor development and cancer. His research could lead to better therapies for treating cancer. read story



Dr. Punit PrakashPunit Prakash, electrical & computer engineering, and team received a $1.3 million NIH grant to expand on preliminary hypertension studies that indicate mild heating of benign adrenal gland tumors can disrupt the tumors’ unregulated production of the hormone aldosterone, which may cause some hypertension cases. (Prakash also studies the use of energy-based devices and strategies for thermal therapy of cancer.) read more


Dr. Dong Lin

Dong Lin, industrial & manufacturing systems engineering, received an NSF CAREER Award to investigate a novel manufacturing technique to engineer nacre- (mother of pearl) or bio-inspired, 3D metal-graphene composites. read more



Zhoumeng Lin and postdoctoral researcher Yi-Hsien Cheng, anatomy and physiology, report progress and limitations of nanoparticle-based drug formulations for cancer treatment in their study, “Meta-analysis of nanoparticle delivery to tumors using a physiologically-based pharmacokinetic modeling and simulation approach,” published in the journal, ACS Nano. read more



cell-based MRI contrast agent imageSagar Rayamajhi, a graduate student in chemistry who works with Dr. Santosh Aryal, was lead author on a study published in two Royal Society of Chemistry journals, Biomaterial Science and the Journal of Material Chemistry B. Their team has developed a cell-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent that can efficiently light up a tumor area, providing crucial diagnostic information for cancer therapy, more safely than the current agent based on gadolinium metal. read more


Alexa WildenAlexa Wilden, senior in biology who works with Dr. Stella Lee and is a three-time Cancer Research Award recipient, was awarded the H.H. Haymaker Award for Excellence, which recognizes an outstanding senior with the highest student honor in the Division of Biology. read more




Cancer researchers among Division of Biology’s Most Promising Students

Four Cancer Research Award recipients are among the 15 sophomores and juniors honored by the Division of Biology with Most Promising Student Awards. They are: Emma Francis, junior in biology who works with Dr. Rollie Clem; Abdulrahman Naeem (not pictured), junior in biology, minoring in political science, who works with Dr. Ruth Welti; Elizabeth Riforgiate, sophomore in biology who works with Dr. Nick Wallace; and Lake Winter, sophomore in biology, minoring in anthropology, who works with Dr. Zhilong Yang. read announcement

Emma Francis
Emma Francis
Elizabeth Riforgiate
Elizabeth Riforgiate
Lake Winter
Lake Winter









Cancer research students recognized at K-INBRE symposium

Of the four K-State students honored for their research presentations at the 18th annual K-INBRE Symposium (Kansas IDeA—Institutional Development Awards—Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) in January, two were former Cancer Research Award recipients:

Mayme Loyd, senior in medical biochemistry and pre-medicine who works with Dr. Masaaki Tamura, for her poster presentation “Cell wall membrane fraction of Chlorella sorokiniana enhances host anti-tumor immunity and inhibits colon carcinoma growth in mice.”



Isabel Lewis, senior in biochemistry and pre-medicine who works with Dr. Gregory Finnigan, for her oral presentation “CRISPR Cas12a endonuclease in a gene drive: Cuts only as good as the guide.”



Read about the K-State students recognized at the K-INBRE Symposium.


Dryden Baumfalk was recognized at the Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka Feb. 26. Baumfalk works with Dr. Brad Behnke in kinesiology studying the effect of moderate-intensity exercise on skeletal and cardiac muscle mass in prostate cancer patients. read more



Photo of Konner WinkleyKonner Winkley, doctoral candidate in biology who works with Dr. Michael Veeman and received a JCRC 2020 Summer Stipend, was awarded the $17,000 Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship in Molecular Biology. read more



Photo of Anil PantAnil Pant, doctoral candidate in biology who works with Dr. Zhilong Yang and has received multiple JCRC awards, was awarded a $1,000 Sarachek Scientific Travel Award. read more





Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to invest $247,832 in K-State cancer research and education this spring! We awarded graduate and post-doctoral students $132,132 in summer stipends. We awarded faculty $67,700 in Innovative Research Awards and $8,000 for laboratory equipment, plus a commitment of $40,000 to support a flow cytometry core facility pending an external grant. The awardees are listed on our Faculty and Student Awardee webpages.



Due to COVID-19, we had to cancel our annual Cancer Research Award Banquet scheduled for April 17. As an alternative, we created the Virtual 2020 Cancer Research Award Banquet.

Every fall, up to 50 undergraduate students are selected to receive Cancer Research Awards. The annual award banquet recognizes the students, their faculty mentors and the donors who made the awards possible.

Last fall, 42 students were selected. The 2020 virtual award banquet presents all the awardees, their awards and the donors, as well as a video presentation from our guest speaker Gabrielle Phillips, a senior in chemical engineering who works with Dr. Ruth Welti in biology.


Big thanks to the Pearce-Keller American Legion Post No. 17 Auxiliary in Manhattan for hosting a Mystery Theater Dinner to raise money for K-State cancer research! They raised $5,820!

(Pictured here are JCRC advisory council member Lorene Oppy, fourth, and the actors.)



I am honored to be the new director of the Johnson Cancer Research Center (JCRC). A professor in the Division of Biology, I came to K-State in 2004 to study the immune response to surgery, heart disease and cancer. I’m amazed by the generous support of everyone involved with the center.

This support includes the time and effort of others in this transition period, especially Dr. S. Keith Chapes and Dr. Mark Weiss. Rather than being simple placeholders as interim director and associate director, they continued to expand the center. The JCRC staff has been amazing, patiently educating me on the center. I also appreciate the center’s advisory council and research members, who have taken time to answer questions and offer advice.

In a first step towards growing the JCRC, we have a new associate director, Dr. Annelise Nguyen, associate professor in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology. Scientifically, Annelise brings expertise in breast cancer drug design and toxicology, and a valuable connection to clinical samples from the National Cancer Institute. She is also experienced with National Institutes of Health training grants. Annelise’s MBA provides experience in business, marketing and coordinating events. Together, we look forward to accelerating the growth of the JCRC.

We are grateful to all who support the center, in any and every form. I hope to visit with many of our friends soon, but if you’re in the area, please stop by and introduce yourself. We’d like to hear your ideas and stories as we continue to fight for a cure.

Sherry Fleming, PhD
Director, Johnson Cancer Research Center
Professor, Division of Biology

Read announcement of Dr. Fleming as JCRC director

Read announcement of Dr. Nguyen as JCRC associate director



K-State cancer research team receives $2 million from NSF

Drs. Bossmann, Culbertson & NatarajanK-State researchers and collaborators have received $2 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to conduct fundamental studies on new treatments for glioblastoma and other cancers. Led by Stefan Bossmann, chemistry, the group includes Christopher Culbertson, chemistry and associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Bala Natarajan, electrical and computer engineering. read more


Yulan Xiong, anatomy and physiology, has received a $1.6 million National Institutes of Health grant to study the physiological causes of Parkinson’s disease. (Most of Parkinson’s Disease-linked genes are also associated with cancers.) read more


Annelise Nguyen, diagnostic medicine and pathobiology and JCRC associate director, was recognized with the John Doull Award of the Central States Chapter of the Society of Toxicology, for outstanding contributions to the discipline of toxicology. read more



David Poole, kinesiology and anatomy & physiology, was recently recognized with an Iman Outstanding Faculty Award, one of the K-State’s highest faculty honors. He was selected on the basis of outstanding research and awarded $5,000. read more




Nora Springer, diagnostic medicine & pathobiology, had her article published in, and featured on the cover of, the October 2019 issue of The American Journal of Pathology!




Zhilong Yang, biology, was recognized as Professor of the Week Dec. 7. Yang studies viral replication, focusing on poxvirus, which not only causes disease but can also be used for therapeutics against cancer and other diseases. read more


Santosh Aryal, chemistry, and team are improving the safety of MRIs by developing nanoparticle-based gadolinium contrast agents. read “Making MRIs Safer” in Advanced Science News




JCRC awarded $227,500 to cancer research faculty in Fall 2019

In Fall 2019, we awarded $142,500 in Innovative Research Awards to Jocelyn McDonald, Katsura Asano and Govind Vediyappan in biology, Ping Li and Peter Sues in chemistry, Nora Springer in diagnostic medicine/pathobiology, and Dong Lin in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering.

We paid the second installment of $50,000 for the Center of Excellence for Pancreatic Cancer Research, led by Stefan Bossmann, chemistry. We also awarded a $35,000 equipment grant to Om Prakash, biochemistry and molecular biology, for a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machine.

Read more about our faculty awards.



Cesar Aparicio, senior in chemistry working with Dr. Santosh Aryal, is one of five K-State students selected to present at Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol March 4. He will present “Stimuli-Responsive Platinum(IV) Micelles for Programmed Drug Delivery.” read more



Dryden Baumfalk, doctoral student working with Dr. Brad Behnke in kinesiology, was one of ten graduate students selected to represent K-State at the Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka Feb. 26. He will present “Effects of prostate cancer and exercise training on left ventricular function and cardiac and skeletal muscle mass.” read more



JCRC awarded $110,000 to students in Fall 2019

Forty-two students were selected to participate in our undergraduate Cancer Research Award program, which provides funded, faculty-mentored research training. Students receive $1,500 awards, and faculty mentors receive $1,000 per student to cover research expenses, for a total of $105,000!  read more

We also provided a $5,000 Heart Research Award to Dryden Baumfalk, doctoral student working with Dr. Brad Behnke in kinesiology, for his project titled, “Cardio protective treatment of 5-Fluorouracil induced cardiotoxicity.”

Read more about our student awards.


Sam Club, Private Eye, Mystery Dinner, a fundraiser by the American Legion Auxiliary
Sat., Feb. 22, 6:30-9:30




Cancer Research Awards Banquet – Fri., April 17, 5:30

Advisory Council Meeting – Sat., April 18, 8-noon at KSU Foundation Bldg

K-State Open House – Sat., April 18, JCRC open to visitors 10-noon

Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight logo 2019


Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight – Sat., May 2



Bill Snyder Highway Half-Marathon runner



Bill Snyder Highway Half-Marathon & 5K – Sat., May 23





You’ll Never Run Alone 5K in memory of Frank Alonso – Sun., Aug. 9

Rob Regier Memorial Golf Tournament – Fri., Oct. 2

K-State Fighting for a Cure Day – Sat., Oct. 10


10th Annual Pink Power Luncheon

Nearly 170 people attended our 10th Annual Pink Power Luncheon Oct. 11. Jennifer Klemp, PhD, MPH, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Clinical Oncology and director of Cancer Survivorship at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, gave the presentation, “Understanding your risk: Breast cancer genetics and survivorship.” Co-sponsored by Susan G. Komen Kansas & Western Missouri, this free event offers lunch, information on health and local resources, and door prizes. Thanks also to the Riley County Medical Society for their support. View Pink Power Luncheon 2019 photos.

Tour Groups


We had a great time hosting visitors from Junction City and Fort Riley Middle Schools (photos) and Blue Valley West High School (photos). Thanks to our laboratory co-hosts, Drs. Wallace, Bossmann, Fleming and their teams!

Learn more about group visits.


JCRC Interim Director Keith Chapes celebrated his retirement

The Johnson Cancer Research Center hosted a retirement and farewell reception Dec. 12 for Dr. Keith Chapes, interim director of the center for three years and professor of biology. Many of Dr. Chapes’ friends, colleagues, family members, and former students came to celebrate with him. Read announcement.



Rob Regier Memorial Golf Tournament

The Regier family, Overland Park, hosted the 22nd annual Rob Regier Memorial Golf Tournament Oct. 18. It was dedicated in memory of former JCRC director Dr. Rob Denell and Regier family friend Bill Trenkle. Thanks to the Regiers and supporters, it raised $27,415! Mark your calendars for Oct. 2, 2020!


Brad Heyka Memorial Golf Tournament

Larry & Mary Jo Heyka hosted this annual tournament in memory of their son Brad Oct. 25, 2019. Every year, the golfers do an honor ride out to the Brad Heyka Memorial Practice Area. We are grateful for the $5,600 gift!



Sharon Snyder & Former K-State Head Football Coach Bill Snyder

Fighting for a Cure Campaign

Our thanks to all who bought Fighting for a Cure shirts and united in wearing them Oct. 5 to raise awareness and funds for K-State cancer research! More than $12,500 was raised through shirt sales in 2019! Thanks also to our retail partners: 1419 Mercantile, G. Thomas Jewelers and Magnolia’s in Junction City.

See more shirt campaign photos from Coach Klieman, Kevin Lockett, and more.

The associated matching gift campaign, supported by an anonymous donor, raised another $19,050!

Mark your calendars for K-State’s 7th annual Fighting for a Cure Day Oct. 10, 2020! Shirts in current and past styles are available. Learn more.


Give Cancer the Axe!

Manhatchet, a new axe-throwing venue in Manhattan, used their grand opening event to raise money for K-State cancer research! We are grateful they thought of us and donated $275!



Beta Boo

Beta Theta Pi fraternity hosted their ‘Beta Boo’ Halloween event and raised $1,422 for K-State cancer research!



Smoky Valley Chiropractic annual fundraiser in Lindsborg, Kan.

Darrel Loder, a chiropractor in Lindsborg, was a student of the late Dr. Terry Johnson, our center’s founding director and namesake. Dr. Loder and his staff dedicate a special day each year to raise cancer awareness and funds for our center. With their patients’ support, they donated $1,250 last fall!


Tillie Robinson Memorial Off-Road Poker Run

Rzrback Off Road, in Arkansas, selected the JCRC as the beneficiary of their annual Tillie Robinson Memorial Off-Road Poker Run. Their third annual event in October raised an impressive $5,500, bringing their 3-year total to $10,000! We thank them and their participants, sponsors & volunteers.



Coach Bill Snyder holding 2019 Fighting for a Cure shirt

The Shirt

The K-State Family is fighting, ever fighting, for a cure! Get your shirt and wear it Sat., Oct. 5, for K-State’s 6th Annual Fighting for a Cure Day, in honor of the K-State Family’s cancer survivors and researchers! All proceeds support K-State cancer research and education.

Join former K-State Head Football Coach Bill Snyder and Sharon Snyder & family, actor and alum Eric Stonestreet, former Wildcat and Chiefs football player Kevin Lockett, K-State President and First Lady Richard & Mary Jo Myers, Band Director Frank Tracz and many others in celebrating K-State’s fight against cancer.

The Tailgate Party

Cheer on the ‘Cats with us at our Tailgate Party in Cat Town at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Make an even greater impact!

Donate to the Fighting for a Cure campaign here and have your gift doubled by an anonymous friend of the center! This year’s campaign supports K-State’s Center of Excellence for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Spread the word!

Post photos on social media of yourself and friends wearing the shirt, and use the hashtag #HelpKStateFightCancer! view 2018 photos

Learn more about the shirts and how you can get them on our Fighting for a Cure webpage. Or go straight to our webstore.