Sometimes the friends you make can shape the path you take. Perhaps no one knows that better than Angela Sosin, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Cancer Biology Graduate Program.
Sosin’s family moved to Macomb Township when she was 8 years old. She made quick friends with three other girls in her new neighborhood. They were inseparable at times, for the next decade, until each went off to different universities. They grew up together, and became part of each other’s families.
“Their parents were, and still are, very much like my own parents,” Sosin said.
As an undergrad, Sosin learned that the mother of one of her friends had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Nothing seemed to make any sense, and answers to questions simply led to more questions. I had a hard time grasping how this could happen to someone close to my parents' age,” she said. “I couldn't even imagine losing a parent that wasn't 'old.’”
The Birmingham resident was always inquisitive, she said, so it certainly wasn’t unlike her to question the diagnosis of someone close to her. “I felt that there was always a reason for anything and everything, and can remember frustrating some of my teachers in elementary and middle school by asking so many questions,” she said.
In retrospect, the experience is one that drove her to inevitably get into cancer research, although she didn’t realize it until years later, she said.
Sosin has renewed a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, or T32, training grant from the National Cancer Institute for a second consecutive year. She is one of five Cancer Biology Graduate Program students in the T32 program. The grant for pre-doctoral students is worth more than $22,000 every year. Her dissertation mentor is Ayad Al-Katib, M.D., professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, and her project is titled “Targeting MDM2 for therapeutic intervention in B-cell lymphoma.”
She received a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and molecular genetics from Michigan State University, and was working as a molecular biologist at a contract research company in Wheeling, Ill., before deciding to pursue her doctoral degree. She chose WSU because she was offered some financial support, liked the idea of being near her family and friends, and appreciated its affiliation with the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
“To me, it meant a broad, in-depth multidisciplinary training experience that would extend well beyond the laboratory,” she said.
Sosin developed a strong interest in hematological malignancies -- cancers of the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes -- during her first year of graduate school. Her research interests now include developmental therapeutics and their translation into clinical relevance.