The Black Lab at the Markey Cancer Center

Markey Cancer Center pic
Markey Cancer Center
Image: ukhealthcare.uky.edu

After earning a PharmD at the University of North Carolina and a PhD in pharmaceutical science at the University of Kentucky, Sherif Mohamed El-Refai wanted to put his pharmacy expertise to use in serving diverse patient populations. In 2014, Sherif Mohamed El-Refai joined the Markey Cancer Center as an oncology pharmacist to research improvements in treatment for lung cancer.

The Markey Cancer Center, founded in 1983 at the University of Kentucky, operates in affiliation with the College of Medicine and the College of Pharmacy. Striving to reduce the morbidity and mortality of cancer, Markey provides multidisciplinary clinical care for patients and conducts comprehensive research on ways to prevent, detect, and treat various cancers. Markey is the only cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Institute of Cancer and one of only a few across the country.

One particular area of research is on cancer cell biology and signaling and another on drug discovery, delivery, and translational therapeutics. Along those lines, the Black Lab was established in 2004 to examine gene expression and how control of gene expression in individual patients affects the ways in which they respond to different treatments. After analyzing patient responses, researchers in the Black Lab then conduct experiments to test and improve therapies.

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The Purpose of the University of Kentucky’s Black Lab

University of Kentucky pic
University of Kentucky
Image: uky.edu

Pharmacist Sherif Mohamed El-Refai is working toward a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences as a student in the doctoral program at the University of Kentucky. Sherif Mohamed El-Refai joined the university’s Black Lab research group to study lung cancer.

Established in 2004, the Black Lab is part of the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy. Maintaining membership with the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, National Lung Cancer Partnership, and American Association for Cancer Research, among other oncology research organizations, the lab and its researchers focus on comprehension of gene expressions and its impact on cancer therapy. This is achieved by designing wet-lab experiments using patient tumors as well as analyzing bio-informatics data.

The lab has successfully produced numerous publications since its inception. In 2015, the group released a publication on how corporate communication strategies can be integrated into doctoral pharmaceutical sciences programs to help students gain communications skills unrelated to science. The previous year, works on endocrine therapy and a phase II study of fulvestrant and everolimus were published. Both concentrated on the breast cancer treatment.