• June 21, 2016
UIC College of Dentistry Student Angelica Lagunas Earns Robinson Award

Angelica Lagunas, a DMD/PhD student who will graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry in 2018, received an Irwin B. Robinson Research and Education Foundation Award from the Odontographic Society of Chicago on April 14.

The College nominated Lagunas, whose application for the award was accepted by the society.

“The award is given to research dental students,” Lagunas explained. She received a certificate at the society’s dinner, a $500 stipend, and another $500 for travel to a dental meeting.

Lagunas’s research is on telomeres which are repetitive DNA-protein structures at chromosome ends protected by telomeric repeat factor 2 (TRF2) and maintained by telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT). TRF2 and TERT expression is altered in many cancers. Loss of TRF2 triggers the DNA damage response, chromosome fusions, genomic instability, and increased oral cancer metastasis. 

Lagunas is investigating whether telomerase inhibition might be an effective anti-cancer therapy to block the effects of telomere dysfunction mediated by loss of TRF2. She has created conditional TRF2/Terc double null mutant mice to evaluate the effects of telomere dysfunction on cancer stem cell phenotype and biologic outcomes in oral cancer.

“One student from each dental school in Illinois receives this award,” Lagunas said. “It is a great opportunity to show the research and accomplishments of the dental students to the members of the Odontographic Society of Chicago.”

The award is named for the late Dr. Irwin B. Robinson, a faculty member in the College’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery from 1947 to 1960 and again from 1990 to 2010. Dr. Robinson also was a member of the Office of Advancement and Alumni Affairs team during his second stint with the College. He was a longtime member of the College’s UIC Dental Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Dr. Robinson’s research was in sickle-cell anemia, production of sarcomas, surgical closure of oroantral fistula, surgery on the mandible, and tetanus.

The Odontographic Society also presented Robinson Awards to dental students Spencer Blackham of Southern Illinois University and Laila Malaki of Midwestern University.

Photo: Angelica Lagunas, center, with the Robinson Award and with Odontographic Society of Chicago President Dr. Paul Landman, '61 (left), and Dr. Daniel Berman, OSC Secretary.

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