Abbie Vollmer is a high school senior. She contacted LMSDR to share that her senior project is to study leiomyosarcoma. We were able to connect her to several esteemed sarcoma researchers who helped guide her and share their resources. We are impressed by her project and hope she continues to study leiomyosarcoma!

Abbie Vollmer

 

By Abbie Vollmer 2/8/20

I’ve been interested in cancer for most of my high school career. I won the 2017 Emperor Science Award sponsored by PBS and StandUptoCancer for my interest in cancer research, which included a 6-month mentorship at Washington University in Saint Louis under Dr. Kian Huat-Lim and his lab. I got to work on their research project on pancreatic cancer and the KRAS and Tpl2 genetic pathways and the signaling crosstalk within them. I presented the project to WashU’s entire oncology department full of doctors and med students (which was very nerve-wracking as a sophomore in high school!). 

After my mentorship ended, I decided that I would pursue a career in medicine. I have applied to University of Missouri- Kansas City’s BS/MD program, where if accepted, I would do my undergrad and medical school at the same time for 6 years year-round (which is my dream program so fingers-crossed, I get in). But if I don’t get in there, I am thinking of studying Neuroscience or Cancer Biology for undergrad and then trying for medical school. 

I didn’t really get interested in LMS until August of 2018. For almost twenty years, my mom’s tumors were thought to be ordinary fibroids and then she started spontaneously bleeding. She had to have a emergency hysterectomy​ and when pathology returned we learned it was LMS. At first, I was just really confused, I didn’t understand how her doctors could have missed this. But when I took AP Research, and learned that for a whole school year I would be working on a research project, I knew that I had to my project over LMS and try to begin to understand this complicated and rare cancer. 

Title of my research is:

 Immunohistochemical Analysis of MED12 Gene in Mouse Models of Leiomyomas, Leiomyosarcomas and STUMP Tumors 

I will investigate if leiomyomas, leiomyosarcomas, and STUMP (Smooth Muscle Tumors of Unidentified Malignant Potential) tumors share a MED12 mutation and antigen.

Currently, there is not much information about the genetics behind these tumors. Treatment for leiomyosarcoma, leiomyomas and STUMP tumors is primarily surgical removal and in some clinical-trial drugs including chemotherapy and radiation. Some prior research has shown that some leiomyomas can form into STUMPS and/or leiomyomas and STUMPS can form into leiomyosarcomas. But this hypothesis is not agreed upon by all researchers. If performed successfully, this research will help to provide a clear connection of the genetics behind these tumors and will provide further ground for these claims. 

I plan on using immunohistochemical analysis to find a mutation antigen within the tissue samples. Immunohistochemistry uses a primary antibody, secondary antibody and fluorescent dye to attach only to the selected antigen as well as various buffers to permeate the membrane. Once the sample is under the fluorescent light, the sample will “glow” indicating that the mutation is present within the sample. No “glow” would indicate that no mutation is present. I also plan on using a negative control (normal tissue sample) to show with no mutation present, there will definitely be no “glow” seen. Therefore, if these three tumors samples emit a “glow” then all three tumors have the same mutation creating the same antigen. This method was not chosen because it was easy, but rather because unlike other methods like western blotting or whole exome sequencing, immunohistochemistry looks at the tissue sample at a whole while still being able to look at the tumor at a genetic level.