Kansas State University


Johnson Cancer Research Center Newsletter



Dr. Stephen Keith ChapesThe Johnson Cancer Research Center is in its 37th year and impacting K-State research more than ever. We are now poised to expand our capabilities even further.

With outstanding scientists in 100 laboratories across five colleges, we are in a position to initiate the process of becoming a National Cancer Institute-Designated Basic Laboratory Cancer Center.

Currently, the NCI has only seven Basic Laboratory Cancer Centers. Basic research provides the basis for understanding cancer, and leads to the clinical research and new treatments that save lives. K-State excels in basic research.

NCI-designated cancer centers are recognized for their scientific prowess and are allotted more resources. NCI designation would help K-State achieve its vision of becoming a top 50 public research university.

A first step of this mission is to hire a new director—an effective administrator, proven fundraiser and world-class scientist who can guide the Johnson Cancer Research Center toward NCI designation.

To recruit an outstanding director, the highest priority is to endow that position. To do this, we need to raise $5 million. Accomplishing this now could mean millions of dollars more for K-State cancer research down the road, as the center achieves NCI designation.

As part of our growth, our scientists are already busy forming Centers of Excellence to fight cancer as teams, focusing on specific cancer problems through multidisciplinary approaches.

To learn more and support the Johnson Cancer Research Center in the College of Arts & Sciences, please visit our Bold New Vision webpage.


S. Keith Chapes, Interim Director
Johnson Cancer Research Center
Professor, Division of Biology
Kansas State University


K-State Fighting for a Cure Day Oct. 14

K-State Head Football Coach Bill Snyder holding Fighting for a Cure shirtShow your pride in K-State cancer research with a Fighting for a Cure shirt!

Wear the shirt to the home football game or anywhere Oct. 14 for the 4th Annual K-State Fighting for a Cure Day.

Join First Lady of K-State Football Sharon Snyder and the Snyder family, Emmy Award-winning “Modern Family” actor and K-State alum Eric Stonestreet, K-State Band Director Frank Tracz and many others in celebrating K-State’s fight against cancer and honoring the K-State family’s cancer survivors and researchers.

Eric Stonestreet wearing Cure shirtGet the shirt!  Shirts are available from our center for $20 each. We’ll ship too! All proceeds support K-State cancer research.

Spread the word!  Post photos on social media of yourself and friends wearing the shirt and use #HelpKStateFightCancer! See past photos: 201620152014.

Tailgate with us!  Cheer on the ‘Cats with us Oct. 14 at the College of Arts & Sciences Tailgate Party in Cat Town!

Thanks to all who have supported this campaign over the years! You’ve raised $30,000 and immeasurable awareness for K-State cancer research!

K-State Marching Bands Beat Cancer FormationWatch the Pride of Wildcat Land’s special halftime salute Oct. 14!

Rob Regier Memorial Golf Tournament Oct. 20

Regier Family
The Regier family hosts the tournament.

The 20th annual Rob Regier Memorial Golf Tournament will be Fri., Oct. 20, at Colbert Hills. Check-in opens at 11 a.m. with the shotgun start at 1 p.m. Prizes will be awarded during a steak dinner following the tournament.

Rob was a K-State graduate in pre-dentistry who passed away from cancer at age 26.

This year’s tournament is dedicated in loving memory of Beth Winans, who died of cancer last December.

Pink Power Luncheon Oct. 11

Peggy JohnsonThe Pink Power Luncheon for breast cancer awareness will be Oct. 11 at Holiday Inn at the Campus, 1641 Anderson Ave., Manh. The event is free but reservations are required.

The guest speaker will be Peggy Johnson, breast cancer survivor and Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Wichita Medical Research and Education Foundation. She will present, “Research and Breast Cancer Survivorship.”


See all upcoming events.


K-State scientists engineer virus to kill cancer cells

Pragyesh Dhungel & Shuai CaoZhilong Yang‘s team in biology has made a discovery that could lead to improved targeted therapies for cancer and many viruses.

Messenger RNA is the template to produce proteins in all organisms. Poxviruses, which can infect people, mammals and some reptiles, use a poly(A) leader in their messenger RNA to synthesize more proteins.

“If we can stop a poxvirus’s use of poly(A) leader, we can kill the virus,” said Shuai Cao, postdoctoral researcher. “This could help develop a novel anti-poxvirus strategy, which could be very important for finding cures for infections and diseases.”

This relates to cancer because a poly(A) leader is present in vaccinia virus, which…can be engineered to selectively infect cancer cells, Dhungel said.

read more


Jun Li and Duy Hua receive large NCI grant

Jun Li (pictured here with his lab team) and Duy Hua, both in chemistry, have been awarded $1,371,309 from National Cancer Institute for “Rapid protease profiling with a multiplex electronic method for detection of metastatic triple-negative breast cancer.” Dr. Priyanka Sharma, of University of Kansas Medical Center, was a collaborator, detecting protease biomarkers in specimens from cancer patients. Previous support from the Johnson Cancer Research Center helped Li and Hua start this project in 2011. A patent on this cancer detection technology was recently granted.

Wallace helping military fight skin cancer

Nicholas Wallace, biology, received $510,231 from the U.S. Dept. of Defense to investigate the role of human papillomavirus in skin cancer. HPV is known as a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer, but the HPV family of viruses infects the skin of a majority of people. read more

Magnetic Nanotech image
Stefan Bossmann, chemistry, and Hongwang Wang, grain sciences, have published their edited book, “Magnetic Nanomaterials: Applications in Catalysis and Life Sciences,” which appears in the Royal Society of Chemistry series “Smart Materials.” read more



Bossmann and Schlup honored for teaching excellence

Stefan BossmannJohn SchlupStefan Bossmann, chemistry, and John Schlup, chemical engineering, have been selected to receive the Segebrecht Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, which recognizes professors who provide inspiration and excellence in teaching. read more


Dr. Dong LinGUINNESS WORLD RECORDS ™ names engineers’ graphene aerogel as world’s least dense 3-D printed structure

The world’s lightest 3-D printed structure is so lightweight that it can be placed on top of a cotton ball or the petals of a flower. The record-breaking material is 3-D printed graphene aerogel and it was developed by Dong Lin, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, and others. read more

Dr. David Poole


David Poole, kinesiology, earned distinguished lectureship award from the from the Environmental and Exercise Physiology section of the American Physiological Society. read more



J. Scott Smith


K-State researcher shows black pepper helps limit cancerous compounds in meat

J. Scott Smith, animal sciences and industry, recently discovered that black pepper reduces carcinogenic compounds in grilled meats. read more




Biology student uses national fellowship to study baculovirus

Kathlyn Gomendoza


Kathlyn Gomendoza uses undergraduate research fellowship from American Society for Microbiology to study baculovirus in Lorena Passarelli‘s lab in biology. read more



Undergraduate students study yeast ribosomes to reveal a fundamental process of cancer formation

Asano Lab TeamCancer Research Awardees Chelsea Moore, Eric Aube, Ian Harmon and others mentored by Katsura Asano in biology, are using yeast to better understand what goes wrong in cancerous cells. read more

Bassette selected for Amgen Scholars Program

Molly Bassette


Molly Bassette, an alumna of Peying Fong‘s lab, was an Amgen Scholar over the summer. She had a paid, mentored research experience at Univ of California, San Francisco, where she studied genes involved in cancer cell response to multiple myeloma treatments. read more


Sandhu received Grad Student Award


Bhupinder Sandhu, in Christer Aakeroy‘s lab in chemistry, received a University Distinguished Professor Graduate Student Award for her crystal engineering work to improve solubility of potential cancer drugs. read more


Undergraduate Cancer Researchers honored by Division of Biology

Jazmine Snow

Kathlyn GomendozaHaley Smalley






Jazmine Snow, Kathlyn Gomendoza & Haley Smalley were named 2016-2017 Biology Most Promising Students.

Adam Schieferecke


Adam Schieferecke received the 2016-2017 Haymaker Award for Excellence.

read more


We awarded $247,269 for cancer research last spring!

Dr. Raelene Wouda & dog
Raelene Wouda was awarded $25,000 for her work deriving new canine tumor cell lines and characterizing their transcriptome and microRNA generation.

Thanks to our generous supporters, we invested $247,269 in K-State cancer research and education last semester! We awarded faculty $89,000 for innovative research projects, $50,755 for laboratory equipment, and $500 for travel to collaborate or receive training. We awarded graduate students $100,705 in summer stipends and $6,309 for travel. The awardees are listed on our Faculty and Student Awardee webpages.



Cancer Research Awards Banquet honored 46 undergraduates

Students selected for our undergraduate Cancer Research Award (CRA) program last fall were recognized at our annual CRA Banquet April 21. Also recognized were their faculty mentors and the donors who made the awards possible. All awardees are listed on our Student Awardees webpage and in this news release. View banquet photos

Stefan Bossmann, Julia Tung, awardee Jose Covarrubias, Sarah Young
The Sarah Young and Alex Tung Cancer Research Award was presented by Sarah Young (far right) and her daughter Julia Tung to Jose Covarrubias, senior in chemistry, for his research with Dr. Stefan Bossmann (left).
Dave Lewis & Fernando Nieto selfie on stage
Banquet emcee Dave Lewis, a radio news show host and the public address announcer for K-State football and men’s basketball, took a “selfie” onstage with guest speaker Fernando Nieto, a senior in biology and past awardee.


Willie the Wildcat at Race to Save 2nd Base 2017Race to Save 2nd Base

Downtown Manhattan, Inc., had its inaugural Race to Save 2nd Base April 22. With the support of major sponsor AJ’s NY Pizzeria and other sponsors and participants, $1,500 was raised for K-State cancer research! View photos


dancers at Pink & Purple Polyester Party 2017

Pink & Purple Polyester Party

The groovy party-goers, sponsors and planners of the 6th annual Pink & Purple Polyester Party, which was presented by CivicPlus April 7, raised $9,700! Attendees had fun supporting the fight against cancer with live disco music, retro costumes and decorated bras! View photos and mark your calendars for April 6, 2018.

Kids at Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo 2017



Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo

Lots of rodeo fans proved they were tough by wearing pink to the Kaw Valley Rodeo Fri., July 28! Thanks to the Kaw Valley Rodeo Association and its “pink committee,” and to the TETWP sponsors, spectators and volunteers, K-State has $5,200 more for cancer research! View photos


Team Hartley at Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight 2017Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight

K-State Research & Extension’s Walk Kansas program sponsored the 2nd Annual Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight and fun walk May 6 to promote exercise and support K-State cancer research! Thanks to major sponsor Central Kansas Cancer Center, other sponsors, participants and volunteers, $2,600 was raised! View photos and mark your calendars for May 5, 2018.



Thanks for viewing our Spring 2017 Newsletter! We hope you enjoy this brief look at some of our achievements and activities.

Conquest 2017 CoverAnnual magazine showcases K-State cancer research

Many of you have received our 2017 Conquest magazine by now. This year’s layperson-friendly stories showcase Dr. Ryan Rafferty’s work to modify cancer drugs so they can both penetrate the blood-brain barrier and be less toxic, Dr. Nick Wallace’s efforts to combat human papillomavirus-caused cancers, and student researcher Raquel Ortega’s work on a cancer early-detection test. Also featured is the “lab-on-a-chip” early-detection test being developed by two chemistry professors and supported by actor and K-State alum Eric Stonestreet. We also look back at the career of our past director Dr. Rob Denell, who retired last fall, and at our 15th Bascom Lecture delivered by a renowned HPV expert.

We invite you to read Conquest online or request a paper copy.

Alumni Survey

We recently sent a survey to hundreds of K-State alumni who benefited from our funding, to learn how the support (thanks to our donors!) impacted their academic and professional lives. We got some great responses about how important and enjoyable the research experiences were, and wanted to share a few with you:

“Overall my undergraduate research opportunity though the JCRC was invaluable. It was perhaps the single most influential experience at Kansas State in the sense that it started my research career.”  –Eric Nicholson, funded in ’91

“Overall great experience and gave me both mentorship and experience to further my career in the medical field.”  –Lindsey Hahn, funded in ’09

“It was great to have the opportunity to work in the lab, as well as share my experience with my personal funder (at awards Banquet).”  –Brandon Pfannenstiel, funded in ’14

“I greatly appreciated the additional funding while completing my undergrad education and observing a possible career path.”  –anonymous, funded in ’06

We greatly appreciate the many responses we’ve received and hope to still hear from some of you. Please email us if you should have, but did not, receive a survey.


K-State Head Football Coach Bill Snyder, a member of the Johnson Cancer Research Center’s advisory council, announced Feb. 13 that he was being treated for throat cancer. His prognosis was excellent and he completed treatment in time for spring practice.

Since Coach’s announcement, many people have made donations in honor of him and purchased our Fighting for a Cure shirts. We are so grateful to the K-State Family for showing their support in this meaningful way. As is our protocol, we will notify Coach Snyder of every donation made in his honor.

Many fans plan to wear their Fighting for a Cure shirts to the Purple/White Spring Game April 22 in honor of Coach Snyder. We have shirts in stock and they are $20 each. Learn more on our website.

Many friends will also wear their shirts to the home football game and elsewhere Oct. 14 for the 4th Annual K-State Fighting for a Cure Day, when the Marching Band will do a special tribute and we’ll have a tailgate party.



Race To Save 2nd Base LogoSat., April 22 – 8 a.m.
Downtown Manhattan

The Race to Save 2nd Base, presented by Downtown Manhattan, Inc., will feature a 5K run along Poyntz Ave., beginning and ending at AJ’s Pizzeria. Finishers will get a medal, pizza and a beer for their effort. Attractions include the K-State Marching Band, Willie the Wildcat, a bounce house and obstacle course for the kids and free cancer screenings. A portion of proceeds will support our center. Learn more and register.


Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight Logo
Sat., May 6 – 9 a.m.
K-State Manhattan Campus

The statewide fitness initiative, Walk Kansas, which is organized by K-State Research & Extension, will hold its 2nd Annual Walk Kansas 5K for the Fight, 1.5-Mile Fun Walk and 50-yard Kids’ Fun Run on the K-State Manhattan campus May 6. Proceeds will support our center! All participants receive a race t-shirt, snacks and more. Place finishers receive custom medals. This is open to everyone, not just Walk Kansas program participants. Learn more and register.

See more upcoming events on our website.


Congratulations to our 2016-17 Undergraduate Cancer Researchers!

Forty-six students were selected for our Cancer Research Award (CRA) program, which offers faculty-mentored research experiences and $1,000 awards for up to 50 undergraduate students per year, plus $1,000 per student to cover research expenses.

This year’s recipients are listed on our Student Awardees webpage and in this news release. They and their faculty mentors will be recognized, along with the donors who make the program possible, at our annual CRA Banquet April 21. Photos of the banquet and each student receiving his or her award will be shared after the event. Watch our Facebook and Twitter pages.


Faculty Achievements

Dr. Masaki TamuraDr. Masa Tamura, anatomy and physiology, and collaborators have received a $150,000 NIH business development grant for their NIH-funded work to develop an aerosolized lung cancer drug. read more



Dr. Nick WallaceDr. Nick Wallace, biology, received a Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program‘s Career Development Award for $360,000 over three years. He studies human papillomavirus, a cancer-causing virus.




Student Achievements

Zheng Zhao BioKansas WinnerZheng Zhao, doctoral student in biological & agricultural engineering working with Dr. Mei He, received a BioKansas scholarship for his work on the ExoSearch Chip, which could help doctors detect early-stage cancers more efficiently and accurately. read more


Tuyen NguyenTuyen Nguyen, doctoral student in chemistry working with Dr. Santosh Aryal, won first place and People’s Choice Award in the K-State 3-Minute Thesis competition. She is developing a new method to treat bone cancer faster than chemotherapy. It also could be used with MRI scanning to diagnose cancer more effectively. read more


Anil PantAnil Pant, doctoral student in biology working with Dr. Zhilong Yang, won second place in the K-State 3-Minute Thesis competition. His research has uncovered some key findings about vaccinia, a virus that takes on traits of other viruses and could be developed into therapy for some cancers. read more



Vaithish Velazhahan


Vaithish Velazhahan, junior in biology working with Dr. Kathrin Schrick, was named a Goldwater Scholar. The award recognizes excellent undergraduate students who have active research projects and plan to pursue careers in mathematics, science or engineering.


Kathlyn Gomendoza


Kathlyn Gomendoza, junior in biology working with Dr. Lorena Passarelli, received a Goldwater Honorable Mention. The award recognizes excellent undergraduate students who have active research projects and plan to pursue careers in mathematics, science or engineering.


Vaithish Velazhahan & Kathlyn Gomendoza


Velazhahan and Gomendoza also presented their research at Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol Feb. 15.


K-State Open HouseOpen House 2017 guest pipetting in Wallace Lab

We had a great time welcoming guests at K-State Open House Sat., April 1. After hearing a bit about K-State cancer research and the Johnson Cancer Research Center, guests were taken to see Dr. Nick Wallace’s laboratory in biology. Big thanks to Dr. Wallace and his team for partnering with us this year, and to our helpful volunteers Justin Walker and Johnathan Dallman, both undergraduate cancer researchers! Thanks also to all the visitors who took an interest in our center!


We welcome school and community groups to visit our center. After a brief discussion about cancer research and education at K-State, visitors are taken to see a Johnson Cancer Research Center affiliated laboratory. Pictured here are Lawrence middle school students visiting Dr. Wallace’s lab in biology.

Presentations to community groups

On occasion, we are invited to present to community groups. We  appreciate the opportunity to inform people about the excellent cancer research happening at K-State and how our center supports it. Here, our communications & outreach coordinator Marcia Locke visits with the Health Ministry group of First Lutheran Church of Manhattan in February.


We look forward once again to visiting the Fort Riley Middle School Wellness Fair April 28. We’ll inform the students about potentially cancer-causing skin damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun and tanning beds, and how to reduce their risk. Some will get to see early signs of damage on their own skin using a DermaScan on loan from Midwest Cancer Alliance. Skin damage that can lead to cancer later in life starts in childhood, when more time is spent playing outdoors.

To schedule a visit at your location or ours, please contact us at cancerresearch@k-state.edu or 785-532-6705.