David Strom, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pharmacology


Dr. David Strom

David Strom, Ph.D. is an associate professor of pharmacology in the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine.  He has taught osteopathic medical students for more than nine years.  His primary areas of teaching interest are in Pharmacology, Physiology, and Cancer Biology. 

Dr. Strom earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry, with a minor in Chemistry, from the University of Iowa.   He received his Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego.  He performed his Postdoctoral work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in the Department of Tumor Cell Biology, and held a non-tenure track faculty position at Vanderbilt University in the Cancer Center. 

Dr. Strom’s first tenure-track faculty position was at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, where he taught Comparative Physiology, Biochemistry, and Nursing Physiology.  His first teaching at an Osteopathic Medical School was at Des Moines University in Des Moines, Iowa.  He was a faculty member in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and taught in the Medical Pharmacology, Introduction to Physiology and Hematology/Oncology courses. 

Dr. Strom is active with the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME), where he serves as an Item Writer and Item Reviewer.  In the past, Dr. Strom has been Chair of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).  In addition, Dr. Strom has served as Associate Dean of Research and Director of the Masters in Biomedical Sciences Program at Des Moines University.  

Dr. Strom undertakes research in the area of Cancer Biology. In particular, Dr. Strom’s research focuses on identifying biomarkers specific to numerous cancers, and understanding how a specific cancer treatment known as HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) works at a cellular level.

Clinical/Research Interests

Over the last five years my research interests have changed dramatically from purely cellular
molecular biology to much more clinically relevant research. I have been very fortunate in
interacting with a number of clinicians in the Des Moines area that have a strong interest in
clinical research, but have questions that are beyond their abilities to answer. Teaming up has
led to some fruitful collaborations. The current projects that I am involved in are outlined below.
1. HIPEC- HIPEC stands for Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy. HIPEC is a
procedure that utilizes the combination of heat and chemotherapy to kill malignant cells of
peritoneal carcinomas that may not be completely removed during cytoreductive surgery.
This is done via catheters that have been inserted into the intraperitoneal cavity.
Chemotherapy that is heated to 41oC is circulated through the peritoneal cavity. Although this
technique has led to a doubling of survival time (approximately 8 months to 16 months), a
clear understanding of the mechanism of action does not exist. We have developed an in
vitro model of HIPEC using HeLa cells. Although not identical, this model exhibits features
similar to in vivo treatment. In response to doxorubicin, HIPEC causes significantly greater
cell death at effective drug concentrations. Interestingly, there is no difference in the dose
response curves for another commonly used chemotherapeutic agent, mitomycin C.
Using this model, we have begun investigating which genes are up and down regulated in
response to HIPEC treatment. Our first investigations have looked at the heat shock proteins;
HSP90 and HSP70. Both proteins are upregulated by HIPEC treatment. We have further
characterized the role of HSP90 in this model, by blocking its activity with 17-AAG (an
inhibitor of HSP90). We hypothesized that since HSP90 is involved in stress response for the
cells, blocking its action would make HIPEC a more effective treatment modality. Our
results showed that there was no effect on blocking HSP90 activity on cell death in our

We are currently experimenting on blocking HSP70 to see if we can see an effect of this
protein on survival in our model. Our goal is to better understand this treatment, and to
identify modifications to the treatment that will make it more effective.
2. Pancreatic Cancer Biomarkers- Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of cancer
known. Typical 5 year survival rates approach 5%. In up to 80% of cases, metastasis has
already occurred at the time of diagnosis. Following surgery, patients are typically put on
one of two different chemotherapy regimens. However it is common that patients are
switched between regimens because they do not respond well to the regimen they were first
started on. Because of the lethality of this disease, identifying additional markers to detect
this cancer earlier and inform treatment options are very important. In collaboration with
Pathology Department at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, we have access to tissue
blocks of approximately 100 patients who were diagnosed and treated for pancreatic cancer.
All of these patients have died, so additionally; we have all the statistical information about
stage, grade, treatments, and time to death for this cohort. Using Immunohistochemistry
techniques (IHC) we are looking at two different aspects of this cancer. First, we have
identified a number of important pathways involved with the two different chemotherapeutic
regimens. We want to determine if drug uptake, metabolism, or targets are responsible for
the varied responses seen for the two primary chemotherapy regimens. If a common defect
can be identified, then patients can be assessed for this defect prior to the start of
chemotherapy, thus increasing the likelihood that the therapy will be effective. Secondly, we
are looking at markers for metastasis. We have shown that E Cadherin expression closely
associates with tumor progression and survival. We care currently looking at downstream
targets of the E Cadherin/􀀀-catenin signaling pathway to help us understand the role of this
pathway in the metastatic processes of pancreatic cancers. Within our laboratory, we are
developing techniques to look at tissue arrays of pancreatic cancers to more accurately assess
the levels of expression for these genes. We hope to be able to put 50-100 small sections of
tissue on each slide so that we can minimize inter experimental variation in staining. This
will enable a much stronger interpretation of the results.
3. Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) - In collaboration with the Surgery Department and
Neurosurgery at Mercy Medical Center, we have collected 10 patient tumor samples of
GBM. With funding from the Sea-Spine foundation we are using a metastatic Proteome
Profiler kit that examines the expression of 55 metastatic proteins. Using these kits, we are
examining the metastatic markers of these patient samples, and connecting that information
to patient outcomes. We hope to create a more robust picture of the process and effects of
metastasis in GBM.


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