University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)

2013 Program Alumni

Rachel RudenRachel Ruden is proud to call herself the inaugural student of the Penn-Pitt Partnership having participated in the P3VMS Summer Research Program during the summer of 2013. She worked in Dr. JoAnne Flynn’s lab studying Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in non-human primates. This provided her a wealth of opportunities to study the effects of TB at the tissue-cellular layer through biological assays in addition to the whole organism by working closely with the DLAR veterinarians and animal care staff. Her individual project compared the cytokine profiles of IL-17 and TNFα in Rituximab-treated cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis) against a paired control. Rituximab is an intravenous drug therapy that effectively depletes B cells from the peripheral blood. This was the first study to look at these cytokine profiles within the first four months post-TB infection. Although she found no significant difference in the amount of cytokine produced within granulomas across group, there was quite a variation in the amount of cytokine produced across granulomas harvested from the same individual. With one-third of the world population estimated to be infected with TB, this program was a wonderful conduit for her to contribute to meaningful research. Moreover, as a veterinary student profoundly interested in megavertebrate medicine, this experience touched her on a personal level. She would like to study disease transmission across the wildlife-livestock interface and its impact on food security in developing countries. As TB becomes an emerging disease of concern within captive and wild elephants she found a means of bridging her interests with basic science research.