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Breast cancer researcher to give public talk at SDSU

Robert Clarke
Clarke, executive director of The Hormel Institute in Austin, Minnesota, will speak at the University Student Union at 7 p.m. April 26.

Noted breast cancer researcher Robert Clarke will give a layman’s overview of the disease, the challenges in treating it and the promising developments under study when he delivers a public lecture on the South Dakota State University campus April 26.

The ninth annual Francis Miller Lecture in Cancer Research is 7 p.m. in the Lewis and Clark Room (262) of the University Student Union.

Clarke is executive director of The Hormel Institute in Austin, Minnesota, which is an independent biomedical research center within the University of Minnesota system.

His talk—"What is Cancer — Breast Cancer as an Example”—will start with the basics of what breast cancer is, the subtypes and risk factors. He also will talk about his research, which focuses on drugs that block breast cancer cell development, how cells function when exposed to the drugs, why the drugs work and why they don’t work.

One of the dilemmas facing biomedical researchers and health care providers is why a drug will be effective in treating one patient but not another patient or why a patient develops resistance to a drug that had been effective previously.

That has been a focus of Clarke’s 35-year biomedical career. Sequencing a patient’s DNA to match the patient with the most effective drug is being explored, but it is a research direction not fully developed, Clarke said.

 

Clarke’s research developments

Clarke and his colleagues have recently identified a new biology-based molecular signaling model in breast cancer that involves several new cancer genes and suppressor genes. This integrated network incorporates cell stress signaling, protein misfolding and communication among breast cancer cells.

Ultimately, this network determines if a breast cancer cell will grow, differentiate or die, and the mechanism by which the cell will die in response to therapy.

Clarke leads several multinational molecular medicine studies on breast cancer with collaborators at the Mayo Clinic, the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and Virginia Tech. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as three scientific societies in the United Kingdom.

A native of Northern Ireland, Clarke was at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before taking the position with The Hormel Institute in 2019.

 

The Johnny Miller story

Francis J. “Johnny” Miller was a longtime pharmacist and drugstore owner in South Dakota, including in his hometown of Gettysburg. Miller, who died in 1987, regretted his academic training in pharmacy consisted of only a 90-day course he attended in Denver during the Great Depression.

He was grateful for the short courses made available by SDSU’s College of Pharmacy and was proud of his family’s association with the university. Miller worked closely with the SDSU Foundation in arranging a trust that made income available to his daughter during her lifetime.

When she died in 2009, the trust assets support pharmacy research and special educational programs, such as the Francis Miller Lectureship.

Cancer is one of the college’s main research focus areas. Recently, the college has established the center for drug, disease, and delivery (3D center) with funding from the South Dakota Board of Regents.

One of the major focus areas of the 3D center is to repurpose existing drugs for cancer and other diseases through multidisciplinary research. The Francis Miller Lecture provides an opportunity for the faculty, students and the public to learn the latest advances in cancer from leading researchers in the field.

In addition to Clarke’s public lecture, he also will give a scientific talk—"An integrative approach to studying endocrine resistance in breast cancer—at 3 p.m. April 26 in Room 043 of the Avera Health and Science Center.

For more information on either talk, contact Om Perumal, associate dean for research in the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, at omathanu.perumal@sdstate.edu.