Prof. Velda González-Mercado receives NIH grant to study cancer-related fatigue

September 22, 2021

Velda González-Mercado, PhD, MSN, RN, assistant professor at NYU Meyers, has received a grant from the NationalVelda Gonzales-Mercado in the bio lab Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The three-year grant of more than $500,000—a K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Career Development Award (K23NR020039)—will support González-Mercado’s research on the biologic underpinnings of cancer-related fatigue in men undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer, through a translational, bedside-to-bench omics approach.

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most debilitating, distressing, and commonly reported side effects of cancer treatment, with up to 71 percent of prostate cancer patients experiencing fatigue during radiation therapy. While researchers still do not fully understand why and how radiation causes fatigue, mTOR—a protein that plays a central role in the regulation of cell growth and other fundamental biological processes—has emerged as a focus of fatigue-related research. Previous research by González-Mercado illustrates how mTOR pathway dysregulation may lead to debilitating fatigue during radiation treatment.

González-Mercado’s new NINR-funded study will explore the network of interactions among the biomolecules present in mTOR signaling pathways at the systems level. The research will aim to identify and investigate mTOR pathway and activity-related genes, regulation of the genes, and changes in mTOR signaling pathway and activity-related proteins as they relate to changes in fatigue before and after radiation therapy in men with prostate cancer.

“This could shift how we think about and manage symptoms of fatigue by offering an understanding of how the mTOR biological functions are regulated and how fatigue may emerge from its dysregulation,” said González-Mercado, who will build on her postdoctoral research and expertise using precision medicine, genomics and other “omics” approaches, and bioinformatics as they relate to symptom science.

“Exploring the relationship of changes in mTOR signaling pathway at the levels of gene expression, epigenetic regulation, and protein expression will give us initial information about potential mechanisms behind the development of cancer-related fatigue, and may provide molecular targets for individualized treatments, leading to more effective management of fatigue in this patient population,” added González-Mercado.