Roloff granted cancer research fellowship at NCI

Senior biology major Greg Roloff received an Intramural Research Training Award from the National Institutes of Health, which will allow him to work as a one-year research fellow at the National Cancer Institute.

Starting on June 1, Roloff will conduct cutting-edge cancer research in Bethesda, Md.

“Bethesda has become a medical Mecca,” Roloff said. “The National Institutes of Health and many of its internal institutions, including the National Cancer Institute, are located there.”

Roloff said he has been interested in cancer research since a young age.

“While most kids idolized baseball players, my heroes were internationally renowned medical investigators,” he said.

Roloff will work under the guidance of world-renowned National Cancer Institute senior investigator Dr. Thomas Misteli. Born in Switzerland and educated at the University of London, Misteli is an expert in genome cell biology and serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cell Biology.

“I will be the only undergraduate-level student working with Tom,” Roloff said. “Most of the other people on the team are staff scientists who are working toward their Ph.D.s. It’s scary and motivating to be working with him.”

Under Misteli, Roloff will conduct research that will focus on genome cell biology.

“We will look at how genes and chromosomes function in the greater cellular context. Cancer is a genetic disease, so we will approach it from a genetic level,” he said. “There is really no new science behind the work that we will be doing. We are just approaching it in a different and simpler way.”

Roloff said he hopes to contribute to the development of a clinical screen that uses chromosomes and gene tracking within a cell to detect the earliest stages of cancer.

“We hope that it will be easy and affordable enough to be in clinics worldwide,” he said. “The technology that we aim to develop will catch cancer at its origin and is as close to prevention as we can get.”

“I am excited to be working with people at the top of their field, but I hope it won’t be just a one-way street; I want to contribute,” Roloff said. “I hope to not just memorize their processes, but to foster and develop research methods of my own.”

After completing his one-year fellowship, Roloff said he plans to attend medical school and complete his residency training that will focus on immunology and oncology.

“In the future, I plan on working for a larger medical institution, possibly even the National Institutes of Health,” he said. “Being in this kind of position gives you enough fluidity to see patients and also do research and work with students.”

“I would never have received this fellowship had I not been educated at the cancer and genetic level,” Roloff said. “The reason I know what I know is because of the professors in the Geneseo biology department. I’m very grateful.”