research scholarship




Pancreatic cancer has the lowest relative five-year survival rate of all malignancies, with the majority of patients presenting with advanced and often inoperable disease. This provides an opportunity for introducing other modalities such as cell-based immunotherapies, which is what I have been working on in the last few years.

Dendritic cells (DCs) are professional antigen presenting cells (APCs) that are central to immune responses inducing adaptive cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) that eradicate cancer cells. Immunotherapies have had limited success in controlling pancreatic cancer due to its ability to create an extracellular immunosuppressive environment that inhibits the immune system. Among these immunosuppressive factors are regulatory T cells (Tregs) and their secreted molecules, TGF-beta and IL-10. Many of the immune evasion strategies used by pancreatic cancer target the processing and presentation of antigen by APCs to other immune cells in the body. In my research, I have demonstrated enhanced entry of a pancreatic cancer antigen into Dendritic Cells (APCs) by covalently linking it to a cell-penetrating peptide (CPP-MAGE-A3). This results in robust antigen presentation and processing leading to enhanced CTLs generation and killing of human pancreatic cancer cells. We hypothesize that blocking either Tregs or TGF-β/IL-10 in the pancreatic tumor microenvironment in concert with obtaining a more detailed understanding of various survival pathways will allow for more effective translation of potential immunotherapies into the clinical setting.

I am very honored to be a third time recipient of the David Fromm Research Scholarship. This $7,000 research scholarship will be exclusively allocated towards my immunotherapy research studies. My aim in this study is to evaluate the effect of primary tumor-conditioned medium and/or patient-derived malignant ascetic fluid on CPP-MAGE-A3-mediated CTL generation with Treg depletion using antibodies and knockdown of TGF-Beta and IL-10 using RNA interference. If successful, my results would facilitate the development of therapeutic modalities that are non-overlapping and potentially synergistic with conventional treatment.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with an amazing team of scientists and physicians to take our discoveries to clinical trials, manufacturing, and patient care.

  • “Oksana Gruzdyn presented findings from the laboratory of principal investigator Ramesh Batchu, Ph.D., at conferences in March and April. The lab’s overall goal is to design effective therapeutic cancer vaccines for pancreatic and ovarian cancers.

    Gruzdyn won first place for a similar presentation at the WSU Department of Surgery’s annual David Fromm Research and Wayne State Surgical Alumni Day on Jan. 28.”


“A person experiences life as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion to find the reality of oneness.” – Albert Einstein.

Viktoriya and Oksana Gruzdyn are Nutritionists and Immunotherapy Researchers based in Detroit, MI. They specialize in helping people reverse autoimmune and other chronic illnesses by optimizing their immune function and cellular repair.


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