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Klein's legacy inspires outstanding student research

EHE News
June 12, 2012

Russell Klein made it his personal goal to study the correlation between diet and cancer at the molecular level – primarily how dietary fat might prevent prostate cancer. His efforts have enhanced the field of human nutrition and its ability to define future cancer preventative strategies.

Remarkably, Klein, who served a dual appointment as assistant professor of human nutrition and as an Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher, found a way to balance his research and teaching commitments, his notable dedication to his students and his private battle with acute leukemia.

In December 2006, Klein's battle with the disease ended. He left a significant impact on the field of human nutrition, his colleagues and especially his students. One student shared, "I learned a great deal about science from Dr. Klein and even more about life."

His grieving students and colleagues soon established the Russell Klein Memorial Nutrition Research Symposium. Samantha Anzeljc, 2012 president of the Graduate Society of Nutritional Sciences, said "The annual event embodies his values by showcasing students' fervor for high-quality and enlightening research and by promoting interdisciplinary learning."

Klein once said, "I got really excited about all there was to do in the field of nutrition and cancer." He would be pleased that his legacy still excites students.

The Graduate Society of Nutritional Sciences June 1 hosted the Ninth Annual Russell Klein Memorial Nutrition Research Symposium, which attracted 34 presenters from academic programs from across campus.

Three EHE graduate students in the Ph.D. Nutrition (OSUN) program are representative of the range of scholarship.

Childhood obesity. Samantha Anzeljc, of Antioch, Ill., is dedicated to preventing childhood obesity. Her research, "An intervention for primary care providers to help them manage overweight and obese children and adolescents: Baseline results of the Pound of Cure (POC) Study," will help Ohio primary care providers establish a standard of care on pediatric weight management in the practice setting.

"We want them to be confident and have the skills to manage overweight and obese children and adolescents," she said. After her doctoral studies, Anzeljc plans to consult with primary care providers to modify behavior in families with overweight children. She was advised by Robert Murray, professor of human nutrition.

Cancer prevention through diet. Kom Kamonpatana, of Bangkok, Thailand, fights oral cancer with delicious and colorful fruits. The doctoral student's research, "Metabolism and epithelial cell uptake of chokeberry and grape anthocyanins in human oral cavity," focuses on anthocyanins, the natural pigments responsible for the red to blue color of fruits and vegetables, which have been shown to prevent inflammation, a common hallmark of cancer.

"This research suggests that different types of fruits can deliver it faster to the oral cavity," he said. "And we want to promote that." Kamonpatana hopes to stay in the human nutrition field upon graduation, continuing his cancer-fighting research. He is advised by Mark Failla, professor of human nutrition and Monica Giusti, assistant professor of food science and technology.

Weight loss in cancer. Kara Kliewer, of Columbus, is following in the footsteps of Russell Klein with her award-winning cancer research, which focuses on the early stage of cancer cachexia, the severe wasting of body fat and muscle. Her research, "Evidence for thermogenesis and elevated fatty acid oxidation in the depletion of fat mass in cancer-induced cachexia," poster won the Nutrition and Cancer Poster Award at the research symposium.

She is studying how and why body fat is lost in cancer, which may lead to potentially preventing the more catastrophic later phase of muscle wasting. "I want to understand the changes in whole body metabolism that occur in cancer," she said. The Graduate Student Pelotonia Fellow is being advised by Martha Belury, Carol S. Kennedy Professor of Human Nutrition. Following graduation, the doctoral student anticipates conducting postdoctoral research in a lab that studies energy metabolism.

A number of students from the College of Education and Human Ecology were recognized at the research symposium:

Abdulkerim Eroglu, Basic Poster Award, for "Naturally-occurring eccentric cleavage products of provitamin A beta-carotene function as antagonists of retinoic acid receptors." The human nutrition graduate research associate is advised by Earl Harrison, Dean's Distinguished Professor of Human Nutrition.

Timothy Hackmann, Interdisciplinary Poster Award, for "Mixed rumen microbes respond to excess carbohydrate by synthesizing glycogen and spilling energy." The OSUN graduate research associate was advised by Jeffrey Firkins, professor of animal sciences.

Blair Jenkins, Basic Poster Award, for "Mapping zinc-responsive elements in Schizosaccharomyces pombe." The human nutrition graduate teaching associate is advised by Amanda Bird, assistant professor of human nutrition.

Rachel Kopec, Applied Poster Award, for "Provitamin A absorption and conversion from a unique high beta-carotene tomato is higher when consumed with avocado." The OSUN student is advised by Steven Schwartz, professor of food science and technology.

The Russell Klein Award recognizes two students who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to research and community service. Angela Rose and Hseuh-Li Tan, both Human Nutrition students, were this year's recipients.

Rose, a master's student, is researching "Relationships between the features of metabolic syndrome and fatty acids in the diet, plasma, and adipose tissue of healthy older adults." She is advised by Martha Belury.

Tan, a doctoral student, is a graduate research associate for Ohio State's Food Innovation Center. Her research, "Bioactive tomato components inhibit cancer-promoting activity of testosterone in the mouse prostate epithelium," seeks to determine if tomato phytochemicals may antagonize cancer, promoting testosterone activity in the normal prostate. She is being advised by Steven Clinton, professor of human nutrition and medical oncology.

The Ninth Annual Russell Klein Nutrition Research Symposium was presented by the Graduate Society of Nutritional Sciences in partnership with the College of Education and Human Ecology, Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Nutritional Sciences (OSUN), EHE Office of Research, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Food Innovation Center, Center for Advanced Function Foods Research and Entrepreneurship, Anne Smith, Jean Snook, Tonya Orchard and OSU Student Organization Programming Funds.

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