Jann Sarkaria, a renowned radiation oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, lectured Thursday about his current research on glioblastoma, a cancerous tumor.

Glioblastomas are highly malignant brain tumors that arise from the supportive brain tissue. Sarkaria’s research aims to find drugs that would work in tandem with radiation treatment to advance treatment of the disease.

He is currently developing novel radio-wave-based treatments and monitoring drug efficacy through repeated imaging of the malignancies. Sakaria’s work also focuses on identifying which types of patients benefit most from the cutting-edge treatment.

During his lecture, Sakaria outlined his methods for investigating treatments for glioblastomas, which starts by taking tumor cells from patients and putting them into “mute mice” — rodents that lack immune systems but can host human cells. He then uses these cells in tests and experiments.

One of his preliminary findings was that mice had a much better survival rate when given a certain protein inhibitor, but it had no effect in other mice. He found that mice with another protein natively in their system are less responsive to the drug, which forms the basis for his newly approved clinical trial.

Sarkaria’s main motivation for coming to the University was to make connections with other doctors and garner support for the clinical trial so it might potentially be piloted at University Hospital.

“It’s fun to go to different places and meet different people,” Sarkaria said after the event. “A lot of how research gets done is by making connections with people and seeing what other people are doing.”

Medical research can often be a slow and frustrating process: Sakaria has been working on this strategy for seven years and tried to get the clinical trial running four times before it was finally approved.

Sarkaria urged University students to pursue science, saying that what he loves about science is discovering new solutions to old medical problems.

“I get paid to come to work and think about an interesting question and read about it, and at some point I decide, ‘Hey, I wanna start working on something different.’ ”

After receiving his M.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and spending his residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sarkaria started his research at the Mayo Clinic with other brain tumor specialists.

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