Holden Graduate Student Spotlight: Shakoora Sabree

The following is reprinted from the February 6 issue of the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Holden Highlights newsletter. See other features from this series.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Shakoora Sabree, Medical Scientist Training Program

As a native of Stone Mountain, Georgia, Shakoora Sabree’s undergraduate education took her to Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA, where she graduated with a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2016. Shakoora came to the University of Iowa in summer 2015 for an undergraduate research experience and subsequently joined the Medical Scientist Training Program in 2016. Shakoora is affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Immunology and studied in the laboratory of George Weiner, MD (Program: Experimental Therapeutics). In the Weiner lab, Shakoora’s thesis project focused on elucidating the mechanism of action of a novel cancer immunotherapy agent known as vidutolimod. Vidutolimod is a virus-like particle containing a TLR9 agonist that has been shown to activate dormant immune cells within the tumor microenvironment. This body of work is currently under study in multiple clinical trials. Shakoora’s work showed that this drug stimulates the immune system in a FcƴR-dependent manner initiating downstream signaling cascades that ultimately, augment T cell proliferation. This work has important implications on the long-term success of this agent in cancer eradication.

As a M7G student, Shakoora has completed her PhD training and is on track to complete her medical training and graduate in May of 2023. Shakoora’s long-term career goal is to help alleviate the burden of disease for patients struggling with dysregulated immune processes such as that seen in cancer and autoimmunity. As a physician-scientist, she aspires to impact this at both the bench and the bedside. As a scientist, Shakoora plans to focus her research career on elucidating novel mechanisms of action in cancer biology and immunology that can inform the development of novel drug targets and ultimately, change the outcome of disease. As a clinician, she plans to not only care for patients with dysregulated immune processes, but to additionally work to mitigate barriers to healthcare delivery so that all patients regardless of background or socioeconomic status may benefit from future medical advancements.

Shakoora’s middle name, Aneesah, means “friend” and is her younger sister’s name spelled backwards. This name is fitting for Shakoora, as her interest in cancer research arose from personal interactions she had with individuals struggling with cancer, firstly, within her immediate family and then within the greater society. As a friend to many, this ignited Shakoora’s drive to find novel solutions through cancer research.

To find time to unwind from medical school, Shakoora enjoys hiking, playing soccer, doing arts and crafts (string art is a personal favorite), and spending quality time with loved ones.

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