Texas Tech University

Toxicology, Cancer Research Expert Joining Faculty of Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine

George Watson

August 5, 2020

vet school courtyard

Thu ‘Annelise’ Nguyen has conducted research into cancer cell-to-cell communication and developed tumor-specific models for anti-cancer drug testing.

In the world of human medicine, a fine line exists between the helpful and harmful effects of chemicals used for treatment of disease. It is the job of the toxicologist to determine through research where that fine line is and how to best treat patients without doing harm.

It is no different in the animal world. Animal toxicology research helps not only small-animal veterinarians treat family pets but also helps cattle producers mitigate diseases that can have profound effects on the beef and cattle industry.

Only through extensive research can toxicologists develop the most effective and least harmful treatments. Thu 'Annelise' Nguyen is one of those pursuing research into drug discovery for breast cancer by targeting the defect of cell-to-cell communication cancer cells, both in humans and animals. Now, she will conduct that research at the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo.

Nguyen will join the faculty of the new school as a professor of toxicology, and she will help establish the Comparative Oncology Research Center that will bring together researchers from both Texas Tech and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). She will begin her duties on Aug. 17.

Thu 'Annelise' Nguyen

"My passion for research, innovation, teaching and mentorship has aligned me well with the mission of the School of Veterinary Medicine at Texas Tech University," Nguyen said. "I am excited not only to be back in the great state of Texas but also joining a team to establish the Comparative Oncology Research Center. I look forward to having the opportunity to educate the next generation of veterinary clinicians and scientists in developing the critical thinking that is needed to address 21st century challenges."

Before coming to Texas Tech, Nguyen served as a member of the toxicology group in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University since 2004, researching the complexity of cancer disease and focusing on the loss of cell-to-cell communication that drives cancer formation. Her recent work involved the relationship between cancer cells and organs, using 3D technology to determine and develop tumor-specific models for anti-cancer drug testing.

Her research has been supported by the National Cancer Institute, the National Science Foundation, private industry and research foundations, and has resulted in two U.S. patents leading to commercialization of these technologies for biomedical uses. Her teaching interests at Kansas State includes clinical toxicology, environmental toxicology, environmental health, ecotoxicology and cancer pathogenesis for graduate and veterinary students.

"Toxicology is so central to veterinary medicine," said Guy Loneragan, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. "It can take many forms, whether that be an understanding of poisonous plants that livestock might eat, exposure to environmental chemicals, or finding the right dose of a drug to kill off a bacterial infection but not the animal. More than that, Dr. Nguyen will add so much to our school. She is a great mentor to students and faculty, and she finds innovative ways to engage our community, from summer workshops for school children to connecting the worlds of science and art."

Raised in Greenville, Texas, Nguyen earned her bachelor's degree in molecular and cellular biology and her doctoral degree in toxicology from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University, and her Master of Business Administration from Kansas State. She served a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Eye Institute before joining the faculty at Kansas State.

Nguyen is a diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology and recently received the 2019 John Doull Award for her service and contribution to the field of toxicology.

"Dr. Nguyen will be working with many faculty members and in multiple areas of our program including pharmacology, toxicology and oncology," said John Dascanio, senior associate dean for academic and student affairs. "She will engage students in research and help to lead them to summer research experiences. She is an innovator, working on new technologies and co-authoring a number of patents. Her work using spheroids to model drug delivery to cancer cells has the potential for ground breaking discoveries. I am very excited about the possibilities her work will bring."

Nguyen becomes the 22nd faculty member for the School of Veterinary Medicine. Additional faculty members will be added over the summer and fall.

About the School of Veterinary Medicine

Thanks to the generosity of Amarillo and communities across Texas, and the commitment of legislators from around the state, the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, established in 2018, is working to enroll its first class in the fall of 2021, pending approval by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education.

The School of Veterinary Medicine will recruit and select students with a passion to serve in rural and regional communities. Its curriculum is focused on the competencies and skills necessary for success in practices that support these communities. Texas Tech's innovative and cost-efficient model partners with the wider community of veterinary practices across the state to provide clinical, real-world experiential learning.