SUNRISE: Student Research Geared to Reducing Muscle Wasting Due to Prostate Cancer
By Catherine Duncan
When Derek Wallace was accepted into the SUNRISE program, the nursing student brought 15 months of laboratory experience in an oncology lab and a physiology lab.
Wallace, a seventh-semester traditional track Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, said he thoroughly enjoyed his lab experience and has always had a fascination with research. When he heard about the nursing school’s new SUNRISE program, it sounded like the perfect fit for him.
“The SUNRISE program is totally different than what I did before. In my previous experience, I was given a task to do,” he said. “In the SUNRISE program, I’m tasked with developing a research question and designing experiments to answer that question.” In his research project, Wallace worked with his faculty mentor, Darpan I. Patel, Ph.D., to plan the research project, perform experiments, conduct statistical analysis, and disseminate the findings.
“This is truly collaborative. Dr. Patel is a true mentor rather than a boss,” he said. Their research, “Attenuating Prostate Cancer Induced Cachexia with Exercise and Nexrutine®,” concentrates on studying the cytokine (inflammatory) signaling of prostate cancer tumors that leads to cachexia, which is the clinical name for muscle wasting.
“We are looking at two non-pharmaceutical interventions—exercise and Nexrutine® which is the extract of cork tree bark—to prevent or delay muscle wasting due to prostate cancer,” Wallace said. “If we can reduce this debilitating side effect of cancer, we can significantly improve quality of life.”
Dr. Patel said pharmaceutical interventions have proven to be ineffective and have adverse effects. “Cachexia is a complex condition with multiple physiological pathways involved. Prescribed medications typically target just one protein in one pathway. In my lab, we study the effectiveness of exercise and Nexrutine® in modifying all the physiological pathways associated with cachexia. Nexrutine® and exercise appear to be more effective and target multiple pathways. Once we figure out what these interventions are doing to the muscle in animal models, we can measure their effectiveness in cancer patients with cachexia,” he said.
Wallace said their research can be translatable to other populations suffering from cachexia, like patients with COPD, advanced cardiovascular disease and other cancers. Once their research is completed, their findings can be the basis for recommending patients at risk for muscle loss exercise and take Nexrutine® in order to battle muscle wasting.