Cancer researcher seeks ways to boost T-cell metabolism

Mercy Kehinde-Ige is not afraid to ask “why?”

“I’ve always been curious about science and curious to understand how the body works, what happens when we have disease and when things go wrong,” said Kehinde-Ige, a graduate student at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

At 25, she’s the youngest recipient of this year’s Paceline grants which were announced in August.

Originally from Nigeria, Kehinde-Ige grew up thinking that becoming a physician was the best way to satisfy her thirst for scientific knowledge. While an undergraduate at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., she discovered the field of research and decided that’s what she needed to pursue,

“I always noticed unanswered questions when people had health issues. They’d go to the doctor who would say ‘We don’t know what’s going on?’” said Kehinde-Ige, whose curiosity was sparked by that response.  “Why can’t we find out what’s going on and fix that?”

She started her graduate program in biochemistry and cancer studies in Augusta in 2020.

Mercy Kehinde-Ige is a graduate student focusing on biochemistry and cancer studies at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

The official name for her research is “Investigating the effects of Stat5a on metabolism in CASTAT5-CD4+ T cells for adoptive cell therapy.”

She’s looking for ways to strengthen the body’s natural defenses in response to cancer, specifically T-cells in their fight against tumors.

“They are in the same environment, and the tumors work selfishly and use up all the nutrients, and the T-cells can’t compete,” she said.

The exhausted T-cells then die. She wants to boost T-cells’ metabolism so they can live longer and continue in their fight against the tumor cells to eradicate them.

The Paceline grant is for one year, and Kehinde-Ige said she’s hopeful to build on what she accomplishes during that time.

“The point of the Paceline grant is to do the preliminary work and apply for external grants to carry on past one year,” she said.

Paceline’s signature event is an annual bicycle ride to raise money to support cancer research at the Georgia Cancer Center. PaceDay is scheduled for Oct. 14. It includes three open-road rides plus a one-mile loop in downtown Augusta.

In 2022, Paceline raised more than $400,000 resulting in grants for nine cancer research projects. More than $1 million has been raised since 2019. That includes a virtual event during the pandemic.

To learn more, visit here.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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