University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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Current Students

Joanne Dehnbostel

Thesis Advisor: Kalpna Gupta

Year entered: 2012

Degrees received:
B.S., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis,1995
M.S., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2011

Honors and Awards:

  • MICaB Student Representative, 2015-2016
  • Awarded NIH T32 (DA007097) Training Grant in PharmacoNeuroImmunology (PNI) May 2016


Chronic pain is a common experience among patients with all types of cancer.  Pain is caused by the primary tumor, surgical and chemical cancer treatment and the metastatic spread of cancer cells to secondary locations. The current standard of care is opioid analgesia. Though opioid analgesics, such as morphine, have been used for hundreds of years, there are drawbacks to their use including tolerance, hyperalgesia, and potential for addiction. These effects have led to “opioid phobia” on the part of both patients and prescribing physicians. Recent reports have also shown an increase in the progression of tumors and apparent effects of opioids on cancer patient survival. The basis of my research is to understand the mechanisms that underlie chronic cancer pain and the effects of opioids on the CNS and the tumor microenvironment in order to find new drugs, optimize drug regimens and discover adjuvant treatments to reduce the detrimental effects of opioids without compromising analgesia. Cancer research must include pain management because it is central to cancer treatment.