Cancer research planned on campus

April 7, 2015
Miranda Bader and Marilyn Tufte

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Cancer research is planned to begin once again this spring on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus. Thanks to funding from the A. Keith Brewer Foundation at UW-Madison, Dr. Marilyn Tufte, UW-Platteville biology professor, will be leading a cancer research project aimed at finding another piece of the puzzle when it comes to cancer research. Dr. Miranda Bader, a Platteville native, who recently completed post-doctoratal program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., will join Tufte on campus for the research. Bader is currently teaching general biology on campus.

This research will continue work Tufte began in the 1980s. However, the new research will be conducted using cultured animal cells. “We will be utilizing the Brewer theory to back up our findings that we found using animals,” said Tufte. “We will see if we can find a cellular/molecular explanation for our results.”

According to Bader, there are many commercially available cancer cell lines that they can use in their research. They can buy cells and make their own stock from what they purchase or they can also accept donations of unused cells from other institutions.

“This research is exceedingly important and runs hand-in-hand with the current efforts of the American Cancer Society to combat cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States,” said Dr. Wayne Weber, dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture. “It is really exciting to have someone like Dr. Bader, with her background with the Mayo Clinic, team up with our own Dr. Tufte, who has extensive experience and knowledge in cancer research and is passionate about this complex field of study. The funding from the A. Keith Brewer Foundation to support these efforts, that began because of Dr. Tufte’s earlier cancer research, is greatly appreciated.” 

According to Tufte, Brewer, a biophysicist, had ideas about membrane ion transfer. He thought that altering the oxygen uptake of a cancer cell would eliminate the cell. He selected a couple ions to try, including cesium. “He wanted to put his paper to the task in the lab and ask someone to do it,” said Tufte. “I volunteered to check it for him.”

Tufte explained they had great success with the research in the ‘80s. “The results were outstanding,” she said. “We got tremendous data. It was so exciting.”

The findings were submitted for publication to the British Journal in Cambridge. “I still get comments about it because it was published widely in Europe,” said Tufte.

“We are hoping to complete this piece of the puzzle,” said Tufte.

“I think I can really make a dent and find some answers that she never found,” said Bader. “I mean that’s really a researcher’s life. You never really find an end to your research, but it would be nice to have some answers. If you have to stop for one reason or another, just sitting there wishing you could keep going and all of a sudden you have an opportunity to move forward again, it’s very exciting. I’m excited to do it and to get back into some more research.”

“I’ll be learning a lot because new techniques have been discovered since those times,” said Tufte. “She (Bader) just got off a post doctorate program at the Mayo Clinic doing this kind of work and she’s very familiar with the latest technology. We’ll hopefully find an answer to how this uptake works and that’ll be interesting. That’ll make it credential worthy.”

Bader’s background includes both biological chemistry and molecular biology, as well as work with neuro-oncology. Her first research experience at the Mayo Clinic involved neuro stem cells and their affect on aging of the brain. She later switched labs and studied chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

That research explored how toxic chemotherapy was to neurons. “They aren’t supposed to be, but they are,” said Bader. “This causes a lot of pain in patients, such as extreme burning sensations.”

"In a climate where universities are being asked to do more with less and still provide practical outcomes, it's hard to imagine a better example than cancer research supported by an existing endowment."

                                    –Dr. Kris Wright

Following her time at the Mayo Clinic, Bader took a year off to assist her father, Dr. Mark Bader, with his livestock nutrition business in Lancaster, Wis. He is a friend and research collaborator with Tufte. Miranda Bader and Tufte met through Tufte’s relationship with Bader’s father.

The research will be conducted in Boebel Hall using current equipment. The Brewer Foundation will purchase any new equipment, including supplies.

Bader is currently doing literature research before getting into the lab. “When you’re doing really in-depth research, the starting point is going to the publications and seeing what’s out there,” she said. “You need to do an extremely extensive literature search to see what people have done, what have they found and how do they do it? From there, you can get ideas of how you want to proceed.”

Bader expects to begin the lab research in a couple months. “I think it brings a good learning aspect for everyone here,” said Bader. “It seems like a really good environment and I think they could really benefit from what I have to show them.”

“We are very fortunate in having someone interested in us to do this research and that interest ended up in funding and that funding ended up in a foundation,” said Tufte. “This was Dr. Brewer’s intent that we try to do more work with cancer.”

“This is such an exciting opportunity for the biology department and UW-Platteville,” said Dr. Kris Wright, chair of the biology department. “To have cutting-edge cancer research being conducted on campus benefits everyone and expands the existing research within the biology department into new territory. In a climate where universities are being asked to do more with less and still provide practical outcomes, it's hard to imagine a better example than cancer research supported by an existing endowment.”

Faculty and students will have opportunities to learn and be involved in the research if they desire, according to Bader. There may be opportunities for internships and possibly assistantships depending on how the research progresses. “It’s really fun to be able to see the things you’re learning and teaching on paper, live and in action,” she said. “So even while I’m just culturing cells they can come and watch and take an active part.”

Brewer, a native of Richland Center, Wis., graduated from the Platteville Normal School in 1913. He graduated from UW-Madison in 1915 where he received his master’s degree and Ph.D. in chemistry and physics.

Written by: Dan Wackershauser, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, 608- 342-1194, wackersd@uwplatt.edu

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