Lori Hensley, Ph.D.

Dr. Lori Hensley

Dr. Hensley joined the Department of Biology in the fall of 2017 after serving as Chair of the Biology Department at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) since 2012.  As a faculty member there, Dr. Hensley was funded by the IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence (NIH) and its predecessors from 2003-2017 and managed nearly $1.5 million in total funding over that time period. She is a strong advocate for student learning and believes students cannot learn science without doing real science. She has worked with over one hundred fifty students in faculty-mentored undergraduate research and led three teams of students to be chosen for the prestigious Council for Undergraduate Research's Posters on the Hill event in Washington D.C. Dr. Hensley and her OBU colleague Dr. Nathan Reyna are currently funded by the National Science Foundation through the RCN-UBE program for the Cell Biology Education Consortium (CBEC). This grant will allow them to help other faculty across the country transform science education and will provide opportunities for students to apply for and receive their own independent funding.

Research Interests: Cannabinoids as Novel Therapeutics for Pediatric Cancers

Ewing’s Sarcoma is a pediatric bone cancer that is highly aggressive, leading to a five-year survival rate of only 30% even with multi-modal treatment protocols.  Improved therapeutic options are desperately needed. My research focuses on the ability of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to induce death and inhibit metastases in cells from members of the Ewing’s sarcoma family of tumors and other solid pediatric cancers.  Our data demonstrate these compounds can successfully kill Ewing’s sarcoma cells and related tumor cells in vitro through the induction of apoptosis. Our data further suggest we can limit the migration of tumor cells and endothelial cells (required for new blood vessel formation to feed the tumors), potentially reducing their ability to spread throughout the body. We have also demonstrated the ability of ajulemic acid, a synthetic cannabinoid, to inhibit angiogenesis in aortic ring assays. In order to test the efficacy of our drugs in a more realistic model of human cancer, we developed a novel bioluminescent mouse model of Ewing’s sarcoma in which engineered tumor cells are injected into the tibiae of mice, and the growth of tumors in control and treated mice can be tracked using specific imaging techniques.  Currently, we are using a large mass spectrometry data set to identify the mechanism and cellular signaling pathways these cannabinoids are using to exert their effects. Students involved with this project will learn and use techniques such as tissue culture, cell viability assays, Boyden chamber assays, Western blots, PCR, siRNA gene silencing and ELISAs.

Curriculum Vitae