Kansas State University


Johnson Cancer Research Center Newsletter

Category: 2018-19 Winter


K-State launches Center of Excellence for Pancreatic Cancer Research

Dr. Stefan BossmannThe Johnson Cancer Research Center has launched a Center of Excellence for Pancreatic Cancer Research. The center has three areas of focus: cancer detection, drug discovery and studies involving in-vivo techniques and magnetic resonance imaging.

The center is led by Stefan Bossmann, professor of chemistry. The focus areas are led by, respectively, Jun Li, professor of chemistry; Duy Hua, university distinguished professor of chemistry; and Jianzhong Yu, assistant professor of anatomy and physiology.

Pancreatic cancer is the third-deadliest cancer in the U.S. Most pancreatic cancers are diagnosed late due to the absence of symptoms. Only 1 percent of people diagnosed at stage IV live another five years.

“Sadly, pancreatic cancer survival rates have remained unchanged in the past decade,” Bossmann said. “New strategies for detection and treatment are urgently needed.”

A major goal of the center is to make earlier detection possible by developing inexpensive liquid biopsy methods that enable frequent and routine testing for onset or recurrence of pancreatic cancer.

A second goal is to develop new drug therapies using cutting-edge chemical synthesis and characterization methods, expert nanotechnology, state-of-the-art in-vitro experimentation and ultra-high-field MRI methods.

read more


Faculty Achievements

Dr. Jianzhong Yu


Jianzhong Yu & Yulan Xiong and team in anatomy and physiology, have identified two proteins that suppress tumor growth in fruit flies and may have similar effect on human cancers. read more


Annelise Nguyen, diagnostic medicine/pathobiology, was elected president of Central States Society of Toxicology (read more). She is also the newest Institutional Biosafety Committee Chair for the University Research Compliance Office.

Bruce Snead, Engineering Extension, was named the 2018 “Radon Hero” by the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors Inc. read more

Kristin Michel, biology, Mike Kanost, biochemistry & molecular biophysics, and team got an NIH grant for mosquito immune system research. read more

Sherry Fleming


Sherry Fleming, biology, received a Department of Defense grant to study how hormones affect males’ and females’ survival of trauma. read more



Raelene Wouda, clinical sciences, received a BioNexus KC and Hall Family Foundation Nexus of Human and Animal Health Research Grant for her collaborative work to create a “universal” cancer vaccination approach by overcoming stumbling blocks to immunotherapy. read more

Susan Sun holding Hydrogel


Xiuzhi “Susan” Sun, grain science and industry, named fellow of National Academy of Inventors in recognition of her prolific spirit of innovation and the impact of her work. read more


Magnetic Landscape


Stefan Bossmann‘s image, “Magnetic Landscape,” was part of the 2018 Science to Art exhibition at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City. At right is the story in K-State’s Fall 2018 ‘Seek’ magazine. Read more about Kemper’s Science to Art exhibit.



Student Achievements

Tuyen NguyenTuyen Nguyen, a doctoral candidate in chemistry (in Sept. 2018) working with Dr. Santosh Aryal at the Nanotechnology Innovation Center of Kansas State, received a first place award in her oral presentation entitled “Cell Membrane Disguised Nanoparticle with Tumor Targeting Motifs” at the UNMC Biopharmaceutical Research and Development Symposium. read more

Yu Shin Wang, senior in animal science & industry working with Dr. Zhoumeng Lin in anatomy & physiology, received the outstanding poster presentation award in the Central States Society of Toxicology annual meeting in Oct. read more

Obdulia Covarrubias-ZambranoObdulia Covarrubias Zambrano, doctoral student in chemistry working with Dr. Stefan Bossmann, was among the 10 students selected to represent K-State at the 16th Capitol Graduate Research Summit Feb. 26, 2019, in Topeka. Her presentation is titled “Liquid biopsy: The simplest technique for pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer detection.” read more



Vaithish VelazhahanVaithish Velazhahan, 2018 graduate in microbiology, medical biochemistry and pre-medicine who worked with Dr. Kathrin Schrick in biology, received a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and is now pursuing his PhD in the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University in England.



JCRC awarded $175,709 in Fall 2018!

Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to invest $175,709 in K-State cancer research and education last fall! In addition to the $50,000 we provided for the new Center of Excellence for Pancreatic Cancer Research, we also gave $125,709 in competitive awards to K-State cancer research faculty and students. Our awards advance K-State’s most promising research projects and help train the next generation of scientists. They are offered each semester. Spring award applications are due March 1.

Cancer Research Awardees 2018-2019
Congrats to K-State’s 2018-2019 undergraduate cancer researchers!


Breakfast with Komen founder Nancy Brinker Oct. 30

Nancy Brinker talking to JCRC affiliates at Union Station by JP'sThe Johnson Cancer Research Center was honored to host a breakfast Oct. 30 for Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization and former U.S. ambassador. Ms. Brinker chatted with K-State cancer research faculty and students about their research, shared her thoughts and vision related to cancer research and health care, and encouraged us to continue to fight cancer through science and education.

Ms. Brinker was at K-State to give the keynote presentation for the Women of K-State Luncheon and Wellness Panel. She gave an inspirational talk about service, leadership and hope.

Nancy Brinker & Marcia Locke of Johnson Cancer Research Center
Nancy Brinker and JCRC Communications & Outreach Coordinator Marcia Locke
Dr. Masa Tamura, Mayme Loyd & Brinker
Dr. Masa Tamura, student Mayme Loyd & Nancy Brinker










9th Annual Pink Power Luncheon Oct. 23

Pink Power Luncheon GuestsAbout 180 people attended our Pink Power Luncheon Oct. 23. Our guest speaker was Anne O’Dea, assistant professor and medical director for breast cancer survivorship at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She presented, “Updates in Breast Cancer Risk, Screening and Treatment: Where Do I Fit In?” This free, special event for the community offers lunch, health information, exhibits on local resources and door prizes. It is co-sponsored by Susan G. Komen Kansas & Western Missouri. view photos



Golden Girls Mystery Dinner graphic


Golden Girls Mystery Dinner – Feb. 23, American Legion Post 17, Manhattan




Off The Hook Bra Crawl Logo 2019


Off the Hook Bra Crawl – March 26, Downtown Manhattan



Pink & Purple Polyester Party logo


Pink & Purple Polyester Party – April 5, K-State Alumni Center, Manhattan




Pink Up the Pace 5K image


Pink Up the Pace 5K – April 13, Downtown Manhattan



Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight Logo


Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight – May 4, at the Johnson Cancer Research Center, Manhattan



Snyder Highway Half-Marathon logo

Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon & 5K
 – May 25, Manhattan



More events & details


We can’t fight cancer alone. We thank our supporters for making it possible for us to pursue our vision to conquer cancer in our lifetime. Big thanks to all the sponsors and supporters of the recent fundraisers listed below!

Please consider supporting K-State cancer research and education. You can give online here or learn more about supporting our center here.

Beta Boo on Halloween
Beta Theta Pi fraternity hosted a haunted house and raised $1,600!
Beta Boo Haunted House










Cowley Co. 4-H county fair fundraiser
Cowley County 4-H members donated $334 that they earned in tips at their county fair food stand!

Downtown Parking Lot Party

Downtown Dental Group, Manhattan, hosted a lunchtime party in their parking lot, along with Tasty Traveler food truck and DJ Slice. This year, they added a big fundraiser raffle and were able to donate $1,239!




Quantum Party in Pink
Quantum Health and Wellness Center, Manhattan, held their second annual pink party in October and collected freewill donations totaling $111!

MHK Girls Pint Out
This group of beer fans gets together monthly and dedicates each gathering to a Manhattan-area cause. In October, they chose the JCRC and donated $150!

Rob Regier Memorial Golf Tournament


The Regier family, Overland Park, hosted their 21st annual tournament Oct. 12 at Colbert Hills. It was dedicated in loving memory of Les Regier, Rob’s father, who passed away from cancer in February 2018. Thanks to many generous sponsors and supporters, it raised $36,200!





Manhattan High School Volleyball Pink Night
The team hosted a pink night in memory of Coach Ray Kujawa and sold shirts to raise money for cancer research. They donated $250!

Mason’s Wish
Mason Wolfe, Colorado, and her family, along with Western States Fire Protection, raised $24,100 for K-State cancer research! Mason started raising money for us about 10 years ago by selling candles and other items, and later added a golf tournament with Western States Fire Protection. They’ve raised more than $124,000 over the years!

Tallgrass Tap House Movembeer

In November, Tallgrass Tap House, Manhattan, crafted a special beer called Movembeer to celebrate “Movember,” or “No-Shave November,” a movement in which men grow out their facial hair to promote men’s health and cancer awareness. They donated 30% of proceeds, totaling $2,180!


New Beginnings Hairstyling annual pink fundraiser
The generous ladies of this Manhattan salon held another breast cancer awareness fundraiser raffle for us in October and donated $175!

Young Trustees Chili Cook-Off
The Greater Manhattan Community Foundation Young Trustees sponsored their second annual chili cook-off to support many worthy, local charities. We’re grateful for their $100 gift!

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 gave $1,270 this year!

Fighting for a Cure Shirts and Matching Gift Campaign

Our thanks to everyone who bought Fighting for a Cure shirts to raise awareness and funds for K-State cancer research! Nearly $9,500 was raised in 2018! The associated matching gift campaign, made possible by an anonymous donor, raised another $21,700! Thank you, supporters!

The Bill Snyder commemorative Fighting for a Cure shirts are still available. Get yours before they’re gone!


Choose Foods that Lower Your Risk of Cancer brochureThe Johnson Cancer Research Center was pleased to collaborate with K-State Research and Extension to produce a brochure that guides consumers in choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables that help lower cancer risk and promote long-term health.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines urge all Americans to “consume a healthy eating pattern” that includes a variety of plant foods of all subgroups. Research suggests that diets rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains may offer protection against cancer and other diseases.

Learn more and link to downloadable brochure


Dr. Rob DenellRob Denell, university distinguished professor emeritus of biology and former director of the Johnson Cancer Research Center, passed away Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Kansas City, Kan.

Denell came to K-State in 1973. He was a professor in the Division of Biology, rising quickly through the ranks to full professor by 1983 and named a university distinguished professor in 2000. He served as director of the JCRC from 2003 to 2016.

Denell had a prolific research career in genetics and evolutionary developmental biology, and mentored numerous students and postdoctoral fellows.

As a cancer survivor, serving the cancer research center was especially meaningful to Denell. Moreover, his impact was profound. He helped the young center mature and thrive, seeing impressive growth of its faculty and endowment.

Read Denell’s full obituary.