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UMES Doctoral Student Contributes to Breast Cancer Research

  • Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    By Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes

    UMES Doctoral student contributes to Breast Cancer Research

    As a little girl in Mashad, a town in her native Iran, Maryam Taabodi was a picky eater searching her food to find and eat only those things she felt had nutritional value. Now a grown woman, she has escalated this search to researching for findings of a different sort if indeed, grapefruit has a substance that can kill breast cancer cells. The project, started by UMES Professor Dr. Kelly Mack, examines research suggestions that  naringenin, the flavonoid in grape fruit and other citrus fruits, possesses potential chemotherapeutic and cancer preventive value as it can inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells regardless of estrogen receptor status. But, since no-one knows for sure how the flavonoid attacks the tumor cells, Taabodi s quest is to determine how.

    "I want to find the cure for cancer," remarks this doctoral student in Toxicology. "I am very passionate about what I do and I read everything I can about this issue and good health in general. Too many women are dying from this disease& over 50,000 a year. In Maryland, the mortality rate is 35.5 for African American Women and 27.4 for Caucasian women." She adds that the search for alternative treatments must be encouraged because conventional treatments for the estrogen receptor have been ineffective.

    "Her preliminary results have shown a slight death in exposed cancer cells compared to the control group," remarks her advisor Dr. Ali Ishaque. "But as of now, we are not sure if the death is due to apoptosis or necrosis. If it is due to apoptosis, then we can safely say that the chemical kills cancer cells."

    "I love the University of Maryland Eastern Shore," says Taabodi. "I have been in the United States for 26 years and have been in the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences for the past six years. This is where I earned my master's degree in Food and Agricultural Science. Everybody has been kind to me.  Dr. Joseph Okoh and the faculty in particular are always helping me to find new opportunities to advance myself." 

    Taabodi's research is funded by the National Cancer Institute and is a project of the University of Maryland's partnership in cancer research and outreach. With Mack as her co-advisor, she has published and has presented at national and international conferences. 


    Jennifer Keane-Dawes, Ph.D., is interim Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.  This is the first of a series of feature articles about research and other scholarly activities performed by UMES students and faculty.