Markey Cancer Center Research Day

Markey Cancer Center Research Day is an exciting and informative event that showcases the innovative cancer research projects happening across all disciplines at the University of Kentucky. This single-day event provides a platform for the UK research community to share their work and collaborate with others. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a poster session, attend oral presentations, and hear from experts during the Susan B. Lester and Gilbert H. Friedell, MD, Memorial Lectures.


Presented by Markey Cancer Center and Markey Cancer Foundation

FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2024  |  8 AM – 5 PM


Register now for Markey Cancer Center
Research Day.


Gilbert H. Friedell Memorial Lecture

Wei Zheng, MD, PHDWei Zheng, MD, PhD, MPH
Associate Director for Population Science Research
Anne Potter Wilson Professor of Medicine
Director, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center
Chief, Division of Epidemiology
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Dr. Wei Zheng is Professor and Director of Division of Epidemiology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the Associate Director for Population Sciences at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. He has published more than 1,250 research papers and served as the principal investigator for more than 35 NIH-funded large epidemiologic and genetic studies. His research focuses mainly on the nutrition, molecular and genetic epidemiology of cancer. Dr. Zheng has been the primary mentor for more than 80 graduate students, postdoc fellows and junior investigators.

Dr. Friedell
Dr. Gilbert H. Friedell

About Gilbert H. Friedell

In 1983, Dr. Friedell became the first director of the UK Markey Cancer Center, beginning a legacy of cancer care that continues to grow and make a difference in the lives of Kentuckians every day. At Markey, he co-founded the Kentucky Cancer Registry – now one of the premiere SEER databases in the country – and served as the principal investigator of the National Cancer Institute’s Mid-South Cancer Information Service, a cancer education program that provides easy-to-understand information for cancer patients, survivors, health care providers and more.

Dr. Friedell was a passionate advocate for programs that provided education and increased access to healthcare for the medically underserved, particularly in Appalachian Kentucky. He famously believed that “If the problems are in the community, the solutions are in the community.” With this in mind, he helped launch Kentucky Homeplace, an initiative that has linked tens of thousands of rural Kentuckians with medical, social and environmental services since it began in 1994.

Though he retired from UK in 2000, Dr. Friedell’s influence is still felt strongly in the overarching mission of our cancer center: to conquer cancer in the Commonwealth. We at Markey are proud to uphold the vision and values of Dr. Friedell, building upon his contributions to public health as we continue to care for Kentuckians with cancer.


Susan B. Lester Memorial Lecture

Dr. Raymon DuboisRaymond N. DuBois, MD, PhD, FAAAS, FAGA, FAACR, FRCP (London)
Director, MUSC Hollings Cancer Center
Associate Provost for Cancer Programs at MUSC
MUSC Distinguished University Professor
Charles W. Coker Endowed Chair in GI Cancer 
Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC


Dr. Raymond N. DuBois is a renowned physician-scientist and cancer researcher who has made significant contributions to understanding the role of inflammation and inflammatory mediators in the progression of colon cancer and other gastrointestinal malignancies. His work has led to a better understanding of the molecular basis for anti-inflammatory agents, such as aspirin, in reducing cancer risk. It has also led to clinical trials showing how drugs that inhibit this pathway could prevent or intercept the cancerization process.

Dr. DuBois has over 160 peer-reviewed research articles out of 274 publications, more than 72 review articles, 25 book chapters, and three books during his career, and his work has been cited over 70,000 times with an H-index of 120. He is also a co-inventor of a method to identify and target cellular genes needed for viral growth and cellular genes that function as tumor suppressors in mammals, which led to the creation of a biotech company that utilized this technology to discover new drug targets for the treatment of cancer and viral infections.

DuBois has been recognized with numerous awards for his cancer research, including the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Research Award, the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Cancer Prize, the Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research, the AACR Distinguished Service Award, and the Anthony Dipple Carcinogenesis Award from Oxford University Press. He was inducted as a National Academy of Medicine member in 2019. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Gastroenterology Association, and the Royal College of Physicians (London). In addition, he currently holds the position of Executive Chair of the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research and was previously Vice Chair of the Stand Up to Cancer Foundation as well as President and Chair of the AACR Foundation Board.

Dr. DuBois earned a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry with honors from Texas A&M University, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and a medical degree from The University of Texas School of Medicine in San Antonio. In addition, he completed his internship/residency in medicine and a gastroenterology fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he studied under Nobel Laureate Daniel Nathans as a Howard Hughes Research Associate.

Susan B. Lester
Susan B. Lester

About Susan B. Lester

The family and friends of Susan B. Lester endowed a lectureship in her honor, and it is this generous donation that makes the Markey Cancer Center Research Day possible.

Mrs. Lester left an indelible mark on her world, serving as a clinical dietician for Eastern State Hospital and for nursing home patients in Eastern and Central Kentucky.

This symposium benchmarks recent advances in cancer research and thus honors Mrs. Lester by underscoring both her generous life and the brave battle she fought against this disease.




Sasha Jakubek
Yasminka (Sasha) Jakubek Swartzlander, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Informatics
University of Kentucky College of Medicine
Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program
Markey Cancer Center


Dr. Jakubek Swartzlander's research is focused on mutations that humans acquire with age. The goal of her work and others in the field is to understand which mutations are associated with higher risk for chronic disease such as cancer. She investigate factors that cause these mutations such as environmental exposures and inherited mutations. Through this work, she wants to improve how to identify people at high risk for disease and tailor approaches for disease prevention.


Samuel Awuah, PhDSamuel Awuah, PhD
Associate Professor, Chemistry
Joint Appointment, Pharmaceutical Sciences
University of Kentucky College of Arts & Sciences
University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy
Translational Oncology Research Program
Markey Cancer Center


Dr. Awuah's research program explores the chemical synthesis and biological impact of organic and transition metal complexes as a basis for chemical probe and therapeutic lead discovery. Recent contributions in his lab towards nano-based drug delivery continues to grow. Dr. Awuah's early studies contributed significantly to the development of photodynamic therapy agents that absorb in the near-IR region for deeper tissue penetration of solid tumors (Org. Lett. 2011; J. Med. Chem. 2013; JACS 2014). His attention quickly shifted to understanding and developing transition metal compounds for cancer therapy. Notable contributions in this area include unraveling the role of high mobility group box protein 4 (HMGB4) in sensitizing testicular germ cell tumors to the FDA approved platinum drug, cisplatin (PNAS 2017). Other discoveries included platinum, rhenium, osmium transition-metal compounds as anticancer agents (JACS 2015; ACS Nano 2016; JACS 2016).

In Dr. Awuah's independent laboratory at the University of Kentucky, he has been intrigued by the central role of the mitochondria and mitochondrial metabolism in physiological and pathophysiological conditions including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, infectious diseases, and inflammatory bowel diseases.  To this end, his laboratory has taken advantage of expanding the structural diversity of gold-based compounds to modulate distinct mitochondria processes, including mitochondrial morphology and biogenesis (Chem. Sci. 2021; JACS Au 2021; Chem. Sci. 2020). Dr. Awuah's work has reignited enthusiasm to investigate the effects of gold and other metal/metalloid compounds in perturbing cellular metabolism, chemical biology, and their application in biomedicine including anticancer and antimicrobial therapies (J Med. Chem 2019; Inorg. Chem 2019; Nature Sci. Rep. 2019, Inorg. Chim. Acta 2020).  Opportunities to leverage synthetic chemistry to resolve long-standing biomedical problems is his passion. They have developed an innovative drug discovery campaign that deploys artificial intelligence, molecular docking, synthetic chemistry, in vitro assay prioritization, and relevant animal models to identify hit-to-lead compounds, serving as probes and therapeutic agents for c-MYC, ARID4B, KRAS mutants and SHP-2 protein targets. Dr. Awuah envisions the development of their therapeutic compounds as safe and potent agents for the cure of diseases in humans including lung cancer. 


8 – 8:30 a.m. Registration and Breakfast
8:30– 9:30 a.m. Student Oral Presentations
9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

Faculty Oral Presentations

  1. Samuel Awuah, PhD
  2. Yasminka Jakubek Swartzlander, PhD
10:30 – 11:45 a.m. Poster Presentation #1
11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Lunch Break



12:15 – 1:30 p.m. Poster Presentations #2
1:30 – 2: 30 p.m. Wei Zheng, PhD  |  Gilbert H. Friedell, MD, Memorial Lecture
2:30 – 2:40 p.m. Break
2:40 – 2:45 p.m. Markey Women Strong Awards presented by Markey Cancer Foundation
2:45 – 3:15 p.m. "State of the Cancer Center" by Markey Director, B. Mark Evers, MD
3:15 – 4:15 p.m. Raymond N. DuBois, MD, PhD  |  Susan B. Lester Memorial Lecture
4:15 – 4:25 p.m. Poster and Mentor Awards Presentation
4:30 p.m. Reception


Markey Cancer Center Research Day (MCCRD) is a single-day event showcasing current cancer research projects throughout all disciplines at the University of Kentucky. 

The UK research community will have the opportunity to share its work in an atmosphere of learning and collaboration throughout the day via:

  • Poster Session
  • Oral presentations (invited from abstract submissions)
  • Exhibit Hall/Luncheon
  • State of the Cancer Center Address
  • Susan B. Lester Memorial Lecture
  • Gilbert H. Friedell, MD, Memorial Lecture

Prizes are awarded to graduate students and to post-doctoral fellows for the best posters in categories such as basic science, clinical, translational, population-based and more.

In addition to the poster competition, the judges select abstracts to be presented during the morning oral presentations from among from graduate students, post­ doctoral fellows and junior faculty members.

Presented by the Markey Cancer Center and the UK Markey Cancer Foundation.

For questions or assistance, please contact Sandra Shepherd, MCC Event Coordinator. 

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 56 in the nation.