Health Sciences Campus

Dr. Rukiyah T. Van Dross-Anderson


Associate Professor

Director of Graduate Programs
Adjunct Professor of Chemistry
Director, Summer Biomedical Research Program (SBRP) for Undergraduates

voice: 252-744-2744



The primary research objective of this laboratory is to determine the mechanism of action and chemotherapeutic potential of novel agents that are derived from natural sources (plants, animals, and minerals). We are currently interested in examining the activity of cannabinoids and bioflavonoids.

Cannabinoids are a class of compounds that bind to and activate the prototypic cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.The cannabinoids are derived from plant material [phytocannabinoids, e.g. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9THC)], animals [endocannabinoids, e.g. arachidonoyl ethanolamide (AEA)], or are synthesized (e.g. WIN55,212-2). Our specific goal is to examine the chemotherapeutic activity of the endocannabinoid, AEA. We have determined that AEA and its metabolic product, 15deoxy,Δ12,14PGJ2-EA, selectively induce death in tumorigenic keratinocytes while causing little harm to non-tumor keratinocytes. Current research in our laboratory is focused on detailing the mechanism of action and determining the in vivo activity of these agents using experimental techniques in the fields of molecular biology, chemistry, pharmacokinetics, and tumor biology.

Another objective of our research is to understand the molecular events involved in apigenin-mediated prevention of skin cancer. Apigenin is a bioflavonoid that is present in fruits, leafy green vegetables and teas. Several studies demonstrate that apigenin inhibits tumorigenesis in various organ systems. COX-2 is an enzyme that promotes tumor growth and is overexpressed in cancers including colon, prostate, breast, lung and skin. Our studies suggest that apigenin prevents skin tumorigenesis by inhibiting cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Research in our laboratory seeks to examine the role of COX-2 and other cellular proteins in the in vitro and in vivo antitumor activity of apigenin.

Selected Publications

Soliman, E. and Van Dross, R. (2016) Anandamide-Induced Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Apoptosis are Mediated by Oxidative Stress in non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: Receptor-Independent Endocannabinoid Signaling. Mol. Carcinog. 55(11):1807-1821.

Soliman, E., Henderson, K.L., Danell, A.S., and Van Dross, R. (2016) Arachidonoyl-ethanolamide Activates Endoplasmic Reticulum
Stress-Apoptosis in Tumorigenic Keratinocytes: Role of Cyclooxygenase-2 and Novel J-series Prostamides.Molecular Carcinogenesis. Molecular Carcinogenesis 55(2):117-130.

Van Dross, R., Soliman, E., Jha, S., Johnson, T., and Mukhopadhyay, S. (2013). Receptor-dependent and receptor-independent endocannabinoid signaling: A therapeutic target for regulation of cancer growth. Life Sciences 92(8-9):463-6.

Kuc, C., Jenkins, A., and R.T. Van Dross (2011).Arachidonoyl ethanolamide (AEA)- induced Apoptosis is Mediated by J-series Prostaglandins and is Enhanced by Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) Blockade.Molecular Carcinogenesis 51(2):139-49.

Van Dross, RT (2009). Metabolism of Anandamide by COX-2 is Necessary for Endocannabinoid-induced Cell Death in Tumorigenic Keratinocytes. Molecular Carcinogenesis 48(8):724-32.

Abu-Yousif, A.O., Smith, K.A., Getsios, S., Green, K.J., Van Dross, R.T. and J.C. Pelling (2008). Enhancement of UVB-Induced Apoptosis by Apigenin in Human Keratinocytes and Organotypic Keratinocyte Cultures.Cancer Research 68(8):3057-65.

Tong, X., Van Dross, R.T., Abu-Yousif, A., Morrison, A.R. and J.C. Pelling (2007). Apigenin Prevents UVB-Induced Cyclooxygenase-2 Expression: Coupled mRNA Stabilization and Translational Inhibition. Molecular and Cellular Biology 27(1):283-96.

Van Dross, R.T., Hong, X., Essengue, S., Fischer, S.M. and Jill C. Pelling (2006). Modulation of UVB-induced and basal cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression by apigenin in mouse keratinocytes: Role of USF transcription factors. Molecular Carcinogenesis 46(4):303-14.

Van Dross, R., Browning, P.J. and J.C. Pelling (2006). Do Truncated Cyclins Contribute to Aberrant Cyclin Expression in Cancer? Cell Cycle 5(5):472-477.

Van Dross, R.T., Hong, X. and Jill C. Pelling (2005). Inhibition of TPA- Induced Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) Expression by Apigenin through Down- Regulation of Akt Signal Transduction in Human Keratinocytes. Molecular Carcinogenesis 44(2): 83-91.

Van Dross, R.T., Yao , S. Asad, S., Westlake , G., Mays, D.J., Barquero, L., Duell, S., Pietenpol, J.A. and P.J. Browning (2005). Constitutively Active K-cyclin/cdk6 Kinase in Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus-Infected Cells. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 97(9): 656-66.

Van Dross, R., Xue, Y., Knudson, A. and Jill C. Pelling (2003). The Chemopreventive Bioflavonoid Apigenin Modulates Signal Transduction Pathways in Keratinocyte and Colon carcinoma Cell Lines. The Journal of Nutrition 133: 3800S-3804S.

Van Dross, R.T. and M. Sanders (2002). Molecular Characterization of Recombinant Pneumocystis carinii DNA Topoisomerase I: Differential Interactions with Human Topo I Poisons and Pentamidine. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 46(7): 2145-2154.

Van Dross, R.T., Rao K., Eisenberg, E. and Sanders, M. (1997). Cloning and Characterization of the Aspergillus nidulans DNA Topoisomerase I gene. Gene 203: 169-174.


Laboratory Members

Ahmed Elhassanny, Ph.D. Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Kathleen A. Thayne, Research Specialist, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Daniel Ladin, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Hussam Albassam, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Rene Escobedo, Undergraduate Student, Department of Biology


Other Student Researchers

Andrew Morris, Ph.D. Student, Department of Chemistry

Robert Kobet, M.S. Student, Department of Chemistry

Jordan Stanley, M.S. Student, Department of Chemistry

Amy Dorszynski, Undergraduate Student, Department of Chemistry

Reuben Chemmanam, High School Honors Program



Dr. Colin Burns, Department of Chemistry

Dr. Allison Danell, Department of Chemistry

Dr. Jimmy Efird, Department of Public Health and Center for Health Disparities

Dr. LaToya Griffin, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology


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