NREF awards UC medical student neurosurgery research fellowship

One-year award to further research into a cure for specific glioma

The Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation partnered with the Brain Tumor Foundation Medical Student Summer Research Fellowship and awarded second-year University of Cincinnati medical student Troy Carnwath a $2,500 fellowship.

Troy Carnwath

Troy Carnwath, second-year medical student at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Photo provided by Troy Carnwath.

“I was ecstatic,” says Carnwath, “actually that’s an understatement.” He embarrassedly admitted he was running around his apartment shouting with excitement. 

That one-year fellowship allowed Carnwath to assist Matthew Garrett, MD, PhD, in a research project focused on a particular type of brain cancer called IDH1 mutant glioma. “These particular gliomas behave a little bit differently,” Carnwath explains, “at least at the molecular level.”  

Through a drug screen, Garrett and Carnwath identified inhibitors of histone deacetylase, or the HDAC family of enzyme, as specifically effective in stopping these tumors. “The problem is though,” says Carnwath, "there is not just one HDAC enzyme, there are actually 18.”

They had to eliminate each enzyme one-by-one, which brought in Carnwath’s computer-coding skills. “I was able to do the sequencing analysis,” he explains, “which is pretty complex.” 

Garrett was impressed by Troy's work. "It takes many people years if not decades to learn the coding skills that Troy acquired during his undergraduate experience and during this fellowship," he said. "They have multiple applications and will make Troy a highly sought-after collaborator throughout his career."

Matthew Garrett

Matthew Garrett, MD, PhD in his lab. Photo by Julie Forbes.

They were able to single out each enzyme and analyze how it impacted cancer progression. Through this study, they were able to identify HDAC1 as the most critical member of the HDAC family. Garrett and Carnwath predict that the loss of the HDAC1 gene in these tumors will significantly extend survival in a mouse model of these tumors.

Carnwath has a strong interest in going into neurosurgery residency after medical school, specifically with a focus on neuro-oncology.  

This is the first year that the Southeastern Brain Tumor Fund partnered with NREF to provide this fellowship and a representative said the organization was greatly moved by Carnwath’s application and are honored to provide the support. 

Featured photo at top of laboratory. Photo/Julie Forbes/University of Cincinnati.