Postdoc cancer researcher Janet Guo ’21 receives ASCPT Presidential Trainee Award

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December 6, 2021

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Alumna Yizhen (Janet) Guo, PharmD ’21, MS ’21, was selected to receive the 2022 Presidential Trainee Award from the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT) for her abstract titled, “Hypoalbuminemia early in treatment hinders benefit from immune checkpoint inhibitors in patients with advanced cancers.”

The retrospective study evaluated the association of changes in serum albumin, a protein created by the liver and found in blood, and overall survival in cancer patients who receive immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) – medication that boosts the immune system to kill cancer cells.

The results found that a decreased or persistently low serum albumin (a condition called hypoalbuminemia), within the first or second cycle of treatment, is an early marker for short overall survival in patients with advanced cancers who receive first-line ICIs. Dr. Guo hopes her study can intrigue more researchers to focus on the complex interaction between ICI resistance and cancer cachexia, a cancer-associated muscle wasting syndrome that is often presented with involuntary weight loss and low serum albumin.

The Presidential Trainee Award is an honor given to clinical pharmacologists and translational scientists in training who submitted top-scoring abstracts. This year, Dr. Guo is among the five recipients of this award. She will be recognized and will present her work at the ASCPT Annual Meeting in March 2022.

“This is one of the biggest awards given to students or trainees from one of the largest organizations in clinical pharmacology and translational science,” Dr. Guo said. “I am very excited about this honor and the opportunity to present my research.”

Dr. Guo started her research journey as an undergraduate student in China, assisting in cancer studies in pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences labs. This exposure to cancer research taught her just how unique and fluid is the world of cancer.

“One unique thing with cancer is that it is a fast-changing field both in bench-top research and in bedside care,” Dr. Guo said. “There are new drugs, technologies and concepts that come out every year and a lot of studies and guidelines to stay on top of. I’m always fascinated by the field.”

Dr. Guo developed an interest in translational science and learned that if she had a clinical background, it would help her with her future career in research. She enrolled in the PharmD program at Ohio State and, to further explore her interest and sharpen her research skills, applied to be a student research assistant for Dr. Mitch Phelps, professor of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology at the Ohio State College of Pharmacy and director of the Pharmacoanalytic Shared Resource (PhASR) at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

In spring 2021, with PharmD and MS degrees and additional years of cancer research under her belt, Dr. Guo now works as a postdoctoral scholar under the direction of Dr. Phelps at PhASR where she supports pharmacokinetic study design and data analysis for Phase I/II clinical trials as well as pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modeling and simulation of anticancer agents in animal models and human beings.

After Dr. Guo finishes her postdoc training, she will head back to her home country, where she hopes to work in academia as a teacher to enhance PharmD education and as a researcher to conduct translational cancer research.