Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Helena Zhang.
2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

Home Department: Human Biology
Mentor: Michelle Monje, Neurology & Neurological Sciences

“Investigating the Role of BDNF-TrkB Signaling in Promoting Pediatric Glioma Progresion”

Pediatric high-grade gliomas (pHGG) are a devastating group of diseases, with a survival of 9-15 months. The Monje lab has demonstrated that neuronal activity is a key regulator of brain development and plasticity, and that a growth factor called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is one mechanism by which neuronal activity promotes glioma cell proliferation. BDNF is secreted in response to brain activity and plays numerous roles through its receptor, TrkB. Helena will try to determine to what degree BDNF is necessary for pediatric high-grade glioma growth, as well as whether targeting BDNF signaling in the tumor microenvironment by using TrkB inhibitors could be a potential treatment for this cancer.