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Student Makes Most of Research, Outreach Opportunities

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Leukemia Studies Earned Claudia Miller NIH National Research Service Award

By Sara Farris, Staff Writer

Miller_Chandra.jpgBrownsville native Claudia Miller, Ph.D., credits her father, a science teacher, for cultivating her interest in research. She wanted to do something to help people, and it was during a summer program at the University of Utah where she realized that research would be her answer.

"The program at Utah showed me the impact I could have with my research and that I didn't have to be a doctor to help people," Miller says. "I chose cancer research because I lived in Houston, and I knew of M. D. Anderson's reputation, but most importantly because cancer is a disease that affects everyone in some way, either directly or indirectly."

As a student in The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston (GSBS), Miller volunteered for two years with the school's outreach program, primarily working with and teaching disadvantaged youth in the classroom about science. She then served as coordinator for the program for four years.

Her commitment to science education, research and community service earned Miller the Butcher Award from the graduate school and led her to being selected as one of four President's Research Scholars. 

In 2004, after completing her master's degree and starting work on her doctorate, Claudia joined the lab of Joya Chandra, Ph.D., associate professor in the Children's Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson.

"Now that I've worked in Joya's lab for five years, I can honestly say that her students are the luckiest," Miller says. "She is an excellent mentor, and she has really made a difference in my life as a researcher, student and as a person."

Miller has given four oral presentations at AACR and one at the American Society of Hematology annual conference. She also has been the first author on two papers published in the journal Blood for her work with a novel proteasome inhibitor, NPI-0052.

Miller's and Chandra's latest research with NPI-0052 showed, for the first time, that the proteasome inhibitor shares similar functions as the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, vorinostat. These cross-over similarities between the two anti-cancer agents increased cell death in chronic lymphocytic leukemia five-fold in preclinical tests. For acute leukemia, the efficacy was even greater.

She was selected for the National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health based on her outstanding research in leukemia with proteasome inhibitors and HDAC inhibitors. The award is a fellowship grant that covers three years of research. 

"Claudia is a very special student. She is very meticulous and pays attention to detail, which is the key to success in scientific research," Chandra says. "She has a high standard for quality, is very motivated and interested in finding the answers through research, and she is always willing to take the time to share her expertise and teach others about her findings."

Miller has received her doctorate and continues to work in Chandra's lab.


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