The UK Markey Cancer Center – NCI-Designated



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.

Pharmacists and Cancer Care


Markey Cancer Center’s Cancer Screening Services

University of Kentucky Hospital’s Markey Cancer Center
University of Kentucky Hospital’s Markey Cancer Center


A graduate of the University of North Carolina with a PharmD, Sherif El-Refai also holds a master of business administration from the University of Florida. Sherif El-Rafai has leveraged his training to serve as an oncology pharmacist at the University of Kentucky Hospital’s Markey Cancer Center.

In addition to providing cancer care services, the Markey Cancer Center offers cancer screening. The only National Cancer Institute-designated center in Kentucky, the Markey Cancer Center collaborates with research groups and healthcare providers to improve cancer education and prevention across the state.

The center’s screening program tests for breast, lung, cervical, colorectal, skin, prostate, and ovarian cancers. The center advises individuals to talk to their physician regarding the appropriate age to begin screening, which varies according to each individual’s personal health and family history of cancer.

The Markey Cancer Center provides free screening for individuals who meet certain requirements. People who may qualify for free screening include those between the ages of 50 and 80, the uninsured or underinsured, and those with a household income less than 200 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines.

To learn more about screening at the Markey Cancer Center, visit

The Focus of the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery (CNDD)

Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery pic
Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery

Dr. Sherif El-Refai attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, where he earned a doctor of pharmacy in 2011. While there, Dr. Sherif El-Refai also gained clerkship experience in the areas of ambulatory care, inpatient medicine, and ICU trauma.

Proclaimed by US News and World Report as the number one pharmacy school in the country, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy encompasses the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery (CNDD), researching new systems for medication delivery.

The CNDD is studying the effects of using sciences such as nanofabrication (creating devices that are measured in nanometers). One nanometer is equal to a millionth of a millimeter. Procedures like nanotoxicology or determining the health risks of nanomaterials to individuals are also being studied to produce safer and more efficient delivery systems for drugs. The CNDD hosts workshops and seminars regularly to discuss research and advancements in drug delivery systems, such as the annual Nanomedicine and Drug Delivery Symposium that drew more than 275 participants representing 11 different countries.

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.