Q&A with Honored Student Award Winner: Marnie Newell
1) What was your reaction when you learned you won Honored Student Award Winner?
I was so excited! I'd been to the AOCS conference for the past two years and it was a wonderful experience to connect with people in my field and beyond.
2) How did you get started in the area of focus that you are studying?
I began as a research technician for my current supervisor a very long time ago! One thing led to another and here I am!
3) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study?
I think it is a different experience to be in grad school with children and one of the biggest challenges for me has been fitting everything in – both on the research side and as a parent. I have become much better at time management and have found a good balance between research and kids!
4) Do you have any words of wisdom for other AOCS student members?
Read as much as you can – about everything, not just specific to your field of study. It’s all important. And have fun!
5) How has winning the AOCS Honored Student Award Winner helped you develop as a young scientist?
It has expanded my networking circle and led to many new contacts in the AOCS community. I think this will be very helpful as I take the next steps in my career.
6) Can you tell us about your current research?
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. The overall goal of my research project is to provide the evidence and identify how docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) dietary supplementation in combination with chemotherapy improves breast cancer treatment. DHA has been shown to decrease growth and increase death of breast cancer cells. How DHA does this and if it can help the chemotherapy used in treatment has not been clearly elucidated. For my research, I began in a tissue culture model of breast cancer and found that treating cells with DHA in combination with chemotherapy improved the anti-cancer effect. Then I moved to a novel patient-derived xenograft (PDX) model. Female mice bearing breast cancer PDX's were fed a diet high in DHA and treated with chemotherapy. Tumors from these mice were more than 50% smaller than tumors from mice fed a control diet and the same amount of chemotherapy. Tumor sections were stained for cellular markers and it was determined that there was decreased growth and increased death in tumors from mice fed DHA. Based on this evidence, we moved to the third objective: a randomized controlled trial with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients who will receive DHA supplementation or a vegetable oil placebo throughout their chemotherapy regimen. We have 50% of patients currently enrolled and we believe that this supplementation will decrease cell growth and tumor size and have a beneficial impact on patient outcomes.