The Cancer Screening Program at the Markey Cancer Center

Markey Cancer Center pic
Markey Cancer Center

Sherif El-Refai is a PhD student at the University of Kentucky where he studies pharmaceutical sciences with a focus on clinical and experimental therapeutics. An experienced clinical researcher, Sherif El-Refai currently serves as an oncology pharmacist at the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center.

The Markey Cancer Center is a healthcare and research institution that has been providing cancer treatment for more than two decades. The center, which is in Lexington, Kentucky, offers innovative technology and high-quality, individualized patient care provided by a team of leading cancer specialists. In addition, the center operates wellness programs such as the Cancer Screening Program.

The Cancer Screening Program operates in partnership with education programs, research groups, and healthcare providers to offer comprehensive cancer prevention and screening services. Screenings, which are free for individuals who meet eligibility requirements, are available for lung, ovarian, prostate, skin, breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers. In addition, the American Cancer Society collaborates with the Markey Cancer Center to provide recommendations related to screenings. For more information on the program, visit


University of Kentucky Cancer Screening Helps Prevent Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer pic
Lung Cancer

A pharmaceutical sciences PhD student at the University of Kentucky (UK), Sherif El-Refai is a translational researcher focused on immuno-oncology in lung cancer at the university’s Markey Cancer Center. To compliment his oncology pharmaceutical practice, Sherif El-Refai conducts research on lung cancer treatment, prevention, and diagnosis.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Every year, it kills more people than colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer combined. The best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking. For those who smoke regularly, lung cancer screening is recommended to detect the cancer early and to reduce the risk of lung cancer death.

UK’s lung cancer screening program was designed for persons at risk of developing lung cancer. These include seniors older than 55, people who smoke or have recently quit smoking, and people who have been smoking a pack or more fa day or over 30 years. The screening uses a computed tomography scan to reveal suspicious cancerous spots in the lungs. Patients diagnosed with the cancer are referred to the university’s Markey Cancer Center, where a multidisciplinary team of medical care givers will commence treatment.

Research Indicates Histone Protein Inhibition as Cancer Treatment

Sherif El-Refai

Sherif El-Refai focuses his work on experimental and clinical interventions. Sherif El-Refai currently works within the University of Kentucky’s Black lab, where researchers use gene expression to develop targeted cancer treatments.

In March 2017, researchers at Rockefeller University announced the development of an intervention that may reduce tumor growth by regulating gene expression. The research centers on proteins known as histones, changes to which may activate or deactivate a gene. Reader proteins within the cell then bind to the altered histone and facilitate activity of the gene.

Cancer researchers have already identified a type of reader protein known as the BET protein, which can inhibit tumor growth. The new discovery from the research team at Rockefeller University involves a type of protein that has similar potential to the BET protein but that shares a particular feature known as a YEATS domain. Like the BET protein, a protein with the YEATS domain binds to histones affected by a chemical mark known as an acetyl group.

Although the relevance of this particular functionality is as yet unknown, researchers do know that proteins with the YEATS domain may fuse with the MLL protein in certain patients with leukemia. Researchers tested this function by deleting a YEATS domain protein known as ENL from leukemia cells in mice, who had a significantly improved prognosis following the transplant of ENL-depleted proteins.

Researchers are now working on developing combination therapies that combine YEATS domain blockage with existing drugs that work as bromodomain inhibitors. The hope is to further explore the potential of YEATS domain blockers not only in leukemia but also in cancers of other types.

Vaccination and Screening Prevent Cervical Cancer

Markey Cancer Center  pic
Markey Cancer Center

A PhD candidate at the University of Kentucky (UK), Sherif El-Refai focuses his studies on clinical and experimental therapeutics. Sherif El-Refai also works as an oncology pharmacist at UK Hospital’s Markey Cancer Center, which published an article in early 2017 advocating for vaccination and screening to prevent cervical cancer.

Markey Cancer Center offers screenings for a variety of cancers, including cervical cancer. Unfortunately, Kentucky has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and death in the United States. These are grim statistics, especially given that cervical cancer can be prevented by vaccination and regular screening.

Virtually all cervical carcinomas are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). At some point, most sexually active women get HPV. However, only 5 to 15 percent develop cervical pre-cancer, and even fewer develop cervical cancer. Regular use of tobacco and birth control pills, among other factors, increase the risk of developing the cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends all 11- to 12-year-old girls and boys receive the HPV vaccine via two does spaced six to 12 months apart. Vaccination should be followed later in life by regular cervical cancer screenings.

Cervical cancer often does not exhibit any symptoms until its advanced stages. According to Markey Cancer Center, getting vaccinated and following up with regular screenings is the best way to prevent cervical cancer.

Research Team Develops Portable Gene Therapy Tool

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center pic
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Sherif El-Refai is a doctoral student in clinical and experimental pharmaceutical science at the University of Kentucky. Sherif El-Refai works in the University’s Black Lab, where he contributes to research in genetic therapies for cancer.

In 2016, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced the development of a small device that could genetically modify a patient’s blood cells. Designed for use in places that have limited access to genetic cancer treatments, it fits on a table yet does the work of a high-budget clean room ordinarily available only in research hospitals.

The product is a redeveloped version of the closed-system CliniMACS Prodigy and follows current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs). Testing revealed that the quality of the modified blood cells was similar to or better than those created in regulated clean-room laboratories. Furthermore, testing in animal models demonstrated successful repopulation in two individual trials.

These positive results indicate the potential usefulness of the product in treating patients in remote areas. Researchers estimate the total per-patient cost of the system to be significantly less than that of the traditional model, thus making the system particularly promising for use in under-resourced communities.

Lung Cancer Vaccine to Undergo Testing in the U.S.

Lung Cancer Vaccine pic
Lung Cancer Vaccine

As a doctoral student and part of the Black Lab at the University of Kentucky, Sherif El-Refai assists in research that develops cognitive cancer treatments. Sherif El-Refai, a student of clinical and experimental therapeutics, focuses particularly on cancers of the lung.

In October 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced approval of a vaccine for lung cancer originally developed in Havana, Cuba. The vaccine is known as CIMAvax-EGF and will undergo testing in combination with Opdivo, an immunotherapy pharmaceutical that scientists believe may affect the vaccine’s effectiveness.

The vaccine has already received approval in several countries, where results show only a few months of added life expectancy for recipients. However, researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, hope to find enough benefits to suggest the vaccine as a potential treatment for a disease that is difficult to treat.

The drug works to control cancer growth by targeting the epidermal growth factor protein, which drives cell growth. By stimulating the body to create antibodies that attack this protein, CIMAvax-EGF prevents it from promoting the growth of cancer cells. Although the results thus far are moderate, researchers hope that it may become an early tool for slowing cancer growth or for improving the quality of life for patients with later-stage tumors.

Different Subsets of Lung Cancer Respond to Different Treatments

Markey Cancer Center  pic
Markey Cancer Center

Holding several advanced degrees in the area of pharmaceutical sciences, Sherif El-Refai has devoted nearly 10 years of study to the eradication of cancer. In addition to serving in the University of Kansas College of Pharmacy Black Lab, where he conducts lung cancer research to assist in developing more efficient treatments, Sherif El-Refai serves the Markey Cancer Center in the position of oncology pharmacist.

In the study of lung cancer, several subsets of the disease exist. Researchers say that because of the existence of these multiple subsets, the approach to treating the disease should vary for each patient based on which subset their cancer falls into.

Such findings came about as a result of a study recently published in the science journal Oncogene.

According to a press release, a group of University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center scientists examined data from more than 1,000 non-small-cell lung cancers, provided by the Cancer Genome Atlas, and organized them into specific classifications.

Senior author Chad Creighton shared that the different cancer subsets may respond differently to the same treatment. By knowing the makeup of each subset and how they react to each type of therapy, the research will aid in improving patient outcomes.