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Matthew P. Miller, PhD

Matthew P. Miller, PhD

Dr. Miller [HHMI Fellow] is investigating how cells ensure the correct partitioning of genetic material during cell division. Errors in this process occur in nearly all tumor cells and are the leading cause of miscarriages and congenital birth defects in humans. He is using novel techniques to isolate and examine the physical binding properties of the molecules that mediate this process. The goal of his work is to determine the molecular mechanisms that direct genome partitioning during cell division and understand how this process occurs with a high level of fidelity in normal cells, yet is error-prone during tumorigenesis.




Project Title: "Regulation of kinetochore assembly"

Institution: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Susan Biggins, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Cell Biology

Rohan K. Srivas, PhD

Rohan K. Srivas, PhD

Dr. Srivas is studying the changes in the composition and function of bacteria inhabiting the human gut (microbiome). The microbiome plays an extensive role in modulating host metabolism and inflammation, which when disrupted can lead to diseases such as cancer. There has been much interest in understanding this relationship between the microbiome and human cancers. By tracking changes in the gut microbiome of patients undergoing drastic weight loss, this research will map the dynamics of host-microbiome connections, potentially highlighting strategies for modifying the microbiome to treat metabolic disorders and reduce the risk of gastric and colon cancers.




Project Title: "Longitudinal profiling of host-microbiome interactions in obese patients during drastic weight loss"

Institution: Stanford University School of Medicine

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Michael P. Snyder, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Systems Biology

Antoine Molaro, PhD

Antoine Molaro, PhD

Dr. Molaro studies how an ancient “evolutionary arms race” between Krab-Zinc-Finger genes (KZNFs) and DNA sequence elements called retrotransposons has shaped transcriptional networks of stem cells and pluripotency. Because many cancers dedifferentiate to a stem cell-like state, refined knowledge about how KZNFs act to finely modulate transcriptional control may prove essential for the development of new cancer drugs.




Project Title: "Evolutionary and functional consequences of genetic conflicts between KRAB-Zinc-Fingers and endogenous retroviruses in primate genomes"

Institution: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Harmit S. Malik, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Evolution

Erin F. Simonds, PhD

Erin F. Simonds, PhD

Dr. Simonds is investigating tumor-initiating cells in pediatric glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor. This rare subpopulation of cells has the unique capacity to re-establish the tumor after therapy, and is therefore a critical therapeutic target. He is using a technique called mass cytometry to determine how these cells respond to communication signals from their environment. The goal of this work is to identify drugs that specifically kill tumor-initiating cells by blocking the signaling networks that sustain their survival.




Project Title: "Single-cell analysis and targeting of signaling networks in glioblastoma tumor-initiating cells"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): William A. Weiss, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: Brain, Neuro-oncology

Research Area: Stem Cell Biology

Thomas S. Vierbuchen, PhD

Thomas S. Vierbuchen, PhD

Dr. Vierbuchen [HHMI Fellow] aims to understand how neurons adapt to experience by modifying the complement of genes they express. He is using high-throughput sequencing-based approaches to identify and characterize the function of genomic regulatory elements that control neuronal activity-regulated gene transcription.




Project Title: "Understanding the developmental programming and function of the enhancers that control activity-regulated transcription in the mammalian cortex"

Institution: Harvard Medical School

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Michael E. Greenberg, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Developmental Neurobiology

Costas A. Lyssiotis, PhD

Costas A. Lyssiotis, PhD

Dr. Lyssiotis is studying the effects of oncogenes on cellular metabolism in cancer. In particular, he is interested in understanding (i) how mutations in the oncogene KRas alter cellular metabolism in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma to facilitate cell growth and (ii) if distinct components of KRas-mediated signaling can be targeted for therapeutic gain. Ultimately, this work aims to translate our understanding of pancreatic cancer cell metabolism into therapies for this devastating disease.




Project Title: ""Exploring the metabolic effects of oncogenic KRas in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma""

Institution: Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Pancreatic

Research Area: Biochemistry

Sean C. Bendall, PhD

Sean C. Bendall, PhD

Dr. Bendall is using novel single-cell analysis techniques to investigate how normal regulatory cell signaling networks are rewired, allowing cancer to grow unchecked. He has applied this technology to examine healthy human blood cells, measuring multiple parameters simultaneously in single cells. Collectively, such single-cell analyses provide an unprecedented opportunity to identify novel regulators (such as drugs, genes, and protein modifications) of cell development and identity, as well as provide insight into how these regulators interact with genes and mutations that promote cancer cell transformation. His goal is to use these studies to contribute to the development of more effective diagnostics and treatments to improve clinical outcomes.




Project Title: "Improved single-cell phospho-protein signaling analysis of oncogenic progression in leukemia"

Institution: Stanford University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Leukemias

Research Area: Proteomics

Moritz F. Kircher, MD, PhD

Moritz F. Kircher, MD, PhD

Dr. Kircher’s goal is to develop a new nanoparticle-based technology that will allow the detection and treatment of cancer based on in vivo tumor marker expression profiling. This would enable a single cancer cell to be both imaged and killed in a single process. To date this has not been achieved, in part due to inadequate sensitivity and inability to accurately visualize the expression of multiple tumor markers simultaneously. 
A radiologist by training, he has developed a new generation of Raman-MRI nanoparticles, resulting in unprecedented sensitivity and targeted signal specificity. He will work with prostate, pancreatic and breast cancer tumors to develop markers that can be targeted by these nanoparticles. If successful, this approach will have far-reaching implications for cancer detection and image-guided therapy.




Project Title: "Raman-MRI nanobeacons: towards a universal cancer theranostic agent"

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Imaging

Xiaolin Nan, PhD

Xiaolin Nan, PhD

Understanding molecular function in biological settings is essential for successful development of targeted therapies for cancer. Advances in biochemical profiling techniques have generated lists of molecules involved in cancer development and progression, but the mechanisms by which these molecules work together within cells and tumors remain largely unclear. Molecularly targeted cancer therapeutics based on incomplete understanding of the tumorigenic mechanisms often demonstrate initial response followed by cancer resistance.
Drs. Nan and Gibbs, both biochemical engineers, will work as a team to address this problem using a revolutionary high-resolution microscopy technique to visualize—at the molecular level—the interactions of an array of proteins involved in the HER2 cell signaling pathway implicated in breast cancer within tumor cells, and their response to therapeutic agents such as Herceptin. They anticipate the findings of this work will significantly improve our understanding of the spatial and temporal organization of cancer cell signaling, enabling development of more effective targeted cancer therapeutics with lasting response.




Project Title: "Studying spatial regulation of HER2 tumorigenesis with multispectral super resolution microscopy (MSSRM)"

Institution: Oregon Health & Science University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Breast

Research Area: Imaging

Emily P. Balskus, PhD

Emily P. Balskus, PhD

Humans live in symbiosis with trillions of microbes, and there is growing evidence that these organisms can impact the development and progression of cancer.
Dr. Balskus’ research seeks to elucidate the mechanisms by which molecules produced by microbes inhabiting the human gut influence the development and progression of colorectal cancer. She will combine tools from synthetic chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology to both characterize and block harmful microbial processes. This work will impact our understanding of how the gut environment influences carcinogenesis, ultimately leading to new strategies for cancer prevention and treatment.




Project Title: "Understanding and preventing carcinogenesis caused by the human microbiota”"

Institution: Harvard University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Colorectal

Research Area: Chemical Biology

Arvin C. Dar, PhD

Arvin C. Dar, PhD

Genes that are mutated, amplified, or altered in cancer contribute directly to tumor development, maintenance, and metastasis. The Ras-MAPK signaling pathway contains two of the most frequently altered genes across all cancers. Ras-MAPK has important roles in normal development but is also commonly dysregulated in a variety of human cancers. The biochemistry of this pathway is highly complex, thus hampering drug development efforts and resulting in the inability to develop any drug that directly targets Ras-MAPK to date.  
Dr. Dar is using two novel approaches to better understand the Ras-MAPK pathway. First, he is reconstructing the pathway from its individual parts, much like an engineer will construct a circuit from relatively simple components. Second, he is developing chemical tools that can perturb functional Ras-MAPK networks in the cell. Both approaches will allow him to investigate questions about how this network functions and how its dysregulation contributes to disease. Ultimately, his goal is to create new drugs that precisely disable the Ras-MAPK pathway in cancer.




Project Title: "Targeting allosteric control in the Ras-MAPK pathway for cancer therapy"

Institution: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Pancreatic

Research Area: Chemical Biology

Summer L. Gibbs, PhD

Summer L. Gibbs, PhD

Understanding molecular function in biological settings is essential for successful development of targeted therapies for cancer. Advances in biochemical profiling techniques have generated lists of molecules involved in cancer development and progression, but the mechanisms by which these molecules work together within cells and tumors remain largely unclear. Molecularly targeted cancer therapeutics based on incomplete understanding of the tumorigenic mechanisms often demonstrate initial response followed by cancer resistance.
Drs. Gibbs and Nan, both biochemical engineers, will work as a team to address this problem using a revolutionary high-resolution microscopy technique to visualize—at the molecular level—the interactions of an array of proteins involved in the HER2 cell signaling pathway implicated in breast cancer within tumor cells, and their response to therapeutic agents such as Herceptin. They anticipate the findings of this work will significantly improve our understanding of the spatial and temporal organization of cancer cell signaling, enabling development of more effective targeted cancer therapeutics with lasting response.




Project Title: "Studying spatial regulation of HER2 tumorigenesis with multispectral super resolution microscopy (MSSRM)"

Institution: Oregon Health & Science University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Breast

Research Area: Imaging

Raymond E. Moellering, PhD

Raymond E. Moellering, PhD

Dr. Moellering is interested in understanding the link between alteration of metabolic pathways and corresponding protein modifications that occur in cancer cells. In addition, he is investigating whether cancer cells use small molecule signaling, known as quorum-sensing, to communicate and thus control tumor initiation, growth and metastasis. His goal is to provide insights into many aspects of tumor progression and to potentially identify new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

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Project Title: ""Characterization of novel pathogenic pathways in cancer: do tumor cells use quorum-sensing molecules to support malignancy?""

Institution: Scripps Research Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Chemical Biology

Alexey A. Soshnev, MD, PhD

Alexey A. Soshnev, MD, PhD

Dr. Soshnev [HHMI Fellow] studies how genetic information is packaged in the nucleus and how such packaging is interpreted by the cellular machinery. Changes in nuclear architecture may simultaneously affect the function of thousands of genes and are a hallmark of cancer. This research focuses on a family of small nuclear proteins termed “linker histones,” which are thought to orchestrate higher-order folding of DNA in the nucleus. Understanding the molecular connection between the nuclear architecture and gene regulation will shed new light on the processes underlying oncogenic transformation.




Project Title: "The study of linker histone H1 in transcriptional regulation and genome organization"

Institution: The Rockefeller University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): C. David Allis, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Chromatin Biology

Shruti Naik, PhD

Shruti Naik, PhD

Dr. Naik is studying the interactions between immune cells and adult skin tissue stem cells in an effort to understand the how this crosstalk drives epithelial disorders, including chronic inflammation and cancer. Because adult tissue stem cells are long-lived cells that continually replenish tissues throughout an organism’s lifetime, they represent ideal points of therapeutic intervention. Identification of inflammation-induced molecular changes in skin stem cells that drive epithelial dysfunction will facilitate the development of therapies for various epithelial inflammatory diseases and cancer.




Project Title: "Immune and epidermal stem cell cross talk in skin inflammation"

Institution: The Rockefeller University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD

Cancer Type: Skin

Research Area: Stem Cell Biology

Ankur Jain, PhD

Ankur Jain, PhD

Dr. Jain focuses on understanding how the level of mRNA species in the cell is regulated. Disruption of these regulatory processes can lead to cancer initiation and progression. These processes are carried out at discrete cytoplasmic non-membrane bound organelles called processing bodies (P-bodies). He aims to develop a molecular understanding of P-body architecture, assembly rules, and their role in gene regulation.




Project Title: "Formation and function of mRNA processing bodies"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Ronald D. Vale, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: RNA

Gabriela C. Monsalve, PhD

Gabriela C. Monsalve, PhD

Dr. Monsalve [Robert Black Fellow] is studying glucocorticoids (GCs), naturally occurring steroid hormones that can be used therapeutically to kill certain tumor cells. Aggressive blood cancers like lymphomas and leukemias are commonly treated with chemotherapy drugs, including GCs. Unfortunately, some patients do not respond to GCs, which usually indicates a poor likelihood of survival. To improve the treatment of patients with GC-resistant cancers, and to better understand how GCs destroy cancerous cells, she aims to understand how and where they are absorbed in the body.  Examining how the absorption occurs will both illuminate how these hormones destroy tumor cells and support the future development of treatment options for patients with resistant cancers. 




Project Title: "Identification and characterization of plasma membrane transporters for glucocorticoids"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Keith R. Yamamoto, PhD

Cancer Type: Breast, Lymphomas, Prostate

Research Area: Endocrinology

Chenxi Tian, PhD

Chenxi Tian, PhD

Dr. Tian [Sherry and Alan Leventhal Family Fellow] studies pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). PDAC is characterized by an extremely stiff texture, which is caused by accumulation of excessive extracellular matrix (ECM). The compositions of ECM, known to have major effects on tumor progression, are not well understood in PDAC disease. She aims to identify global ECM changes during PDAC progression by proteomic approaches, and to investigate how these changes impact cancer progression. The uncovered ECM of PDAC will provide novel insights into diagnosis, prognosis and treatments of this very difficult disease.




Project Title: "Understanding the roles of extracellular matrix proteins in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma progression"

Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Richard O. Hynes, PhD

Cancer Type: Pancreatic

Research Area: Invasion and Metastasis

Liron Bar-Peled, PhD

Liron Bar-Peled, PhD

Dr. Bar-Peled is exploring how the protease Caspase-8 regulates T cell activation, which represents a critical step in the adaptive immune response to cancer. While Caspase-8 has long been appreciated to be essential for T cell activation, the molecular mechanisms underlying its role in this process remain poorly understood. His work will focus on identifying and characterizing the proteins cleaved by Caspase-8, which may provide additional therapeutic avenues to activate T cells to target malignant cells in cancer patients.




Project Title: "Proteolytic regulation of the adaptive immune response: identification of caspase-8 substrates required for T cell activation"

Institution: The Scripps Research Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Benjamin F. Cravatt, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Chemical Biology

Eric M. Woerly, PhD

Eric M. Woerly, PhD

Dr. Woerly aims to develop new chemical synthetic methods for the preparation of cancer therapeutics. The introduction of fluorine into pharmaceutical targets is an important element of drug design. The controlled, selective synthesis of fluorinated compounds, however, can be a great synthetic challenge. He plans to enable access to such targets by developing a method for the asymmetric synthesis of fluorinated small molecules, potentially leading to improved cancer therapies.




Project Title: "Accessing new cancer therapeutics via an intermolecular fluorofunctionalization reaction"

Institution: Harvard University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Eric N. Jacobsen, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Organic Chemistry

Hanjing Peng, PhD

Hanjing Peng, PhD

Dr. Peng seeks to identify compounds that inhibit the proteasome, the protein degradation machinery in the cell that maintains the balance of cell growth and death. Inhibitors that regulate proteasome function are potential anticancer drugs. Inspired by the functional mechanism of a class of natural products that includes FK506 and rapamycin, she has designed and constructed a synthetic library of compounds (macrocyclic “rapafucin”) in search of potent proteasome inhibitors. She hopes to discover new anticancer drug candidates with lower toxicity or side effects than current drugs.




Project Title: "Targeting the proteasome using a hybrid, combinatorial rapafucin library"

Institution: The Johns Hopkins University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jun O. Liu, PhD

Cancer Type: Leukemias, Myeloma

Research Area: Drug Discovery

Ryan D. Baldridge, PhD

Ryan D. Baldridge, PhD

Dr. Baldridge focuses on a cellular process called endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation (ERAD), a system involved in recognition, transport and degradation of regulated and misfolded proteins. ERAD plays a role in cancer processes, in some instances by regulating the levels of proteins involved in tumor growth and metastasis. In other cases ERAD is upregulated to relieve ER stress caused by tumor growth. His goal is to understand how the ERAD system recognizes target proteins at the ER, transports them across the ER membrane to the cytosol, and ubiquitinates them prior to proteasomal degradation.




Project Title: "Investigating the mechanism of retro-translocation by ERAD"

Institution: Harvard Medical School

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Thomas A. Rapaport, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Biochemistry

Brittany Adamson, PhD

Brittany Adamson, PhD

Dr. Adamson [HHMI Fellow] is using large-scale genetic approaches to map the regulatory networks responsible for maintaining molecular equilibria inside human cells. An important question in cancer research is how cancer cells adapt to abnormal growth environments and proliferate under stress. Systematic characterization of the processes that maintain these equilibria will be critical for better understanding cancer formation and growth.




Project Title: "Comprehensive characterization of the integrated networks that regulate protein homeostasis within the mammalian endoplasmic reticulum"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jonathan S. Weissman, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Myeloma, Sarcomas

Research Area: Protein Processing

Nathan D. Thomsen, PhD

Nathan D. Thomsen, PhD

Dr. Thomsen is studying the molecular interactions that are required for specific signaling pathways in the cell. In cancer cells, these signaling pathways are often disrupted or misregulated. Using sophisticated new techniques he has developed, he will "capture and trap" proteins in real time, as they are signaling-similar to a video freeze-frame. He plans to then engineer antibodies that will specifically target and inhibit these pathways, which can be used to learn more about the molecular mechanisms underlying signaling and may eventually be developed into therapeutics for cancer and other diseases.




Project Title: ""Molecular and cellular mechanism of caspase activation by small molecule proenzyme activators""

Institution: UC, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Chemical Biology

Jakob von Moltke, PhD

Jakob von Moltke, PhD

Dr. von Moltke [HHMI Fellow] studies how the immune system detects bacteria and parasitic worms. Emerging evidence suggests that these same immune cells also respond to tissue damage in the absence of infection, suggesting an evolutionary role in wound healing. He is examining how these cells are regulated during wound healing and how their activity contributes to tissue regeneration and repair. Since tumors regularly hijack the body’s natural wound healing processes, his findings should provide insight into tumorigenesis and could suggest novel therapeutic strategies.




Project Title: "Innate type II cells and wound healing"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Richard Locksley, MD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Skin

Research Area: Basic Immunology

Victoria E.H. Wang, MD, PhD

Victoria E.H. Wang, MD, PhD

Dr. Wang seeks to understand the mechanisms by which tumor cells become resistant to drug therapy and spread to distant organs. She is utilizing functional genomics tools to identify novel pathways modulating these processes in the hope of developing new therapies to augment treatment response in cancer patients. 




Project Title: "The role of the c-Met/Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) pathway in drug resistance and tumor metastasis"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Frank McCormick, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Gastric, Lung

Research Area: Chemoresistance

Steven Lin, PhD

Steven Lin, PhD

Dr. Lin [HHMI Fellow] investigates the molecular mechanism by which the bacterial enzyme Cas9 targets and cleaves double-stranded DNA. His goal is to provide a detailed understanding of Cas9 mechanism and structure, ultimately aiming to develop Cas9 into a versatile genome engineering tool for further studies of cancer-associated genes.




Project Title: "Molecular mechanism of Cas9, an RNA-guided DNA endonuclease"

Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jennifer A. Doudna, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Biochemistry

Christine Iok In Chio, PhD

Christine Iok In  Chio, PhD

Dr. Chio [Shirley Stein Fellow] works on pancreatic cancer, which is a particularly devastating and difficult-to-treat disease because of its ability to grow in conditions of high oxidative stress—conditions in which normal cells would not survive. She is evaluating the biological role of oxidative stress in pancreatic cancer development and progression, using both mouse models of pancreatic cancer as well as human tumor samples. Her work may result in a novel therapeutic approach for this disease. 




Project Title: "Regulation of the global redox landscape: Investigating the role of Nrf2 in pancreatic cancer development"

Institution: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): David A. Tuveson, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: Pancreatic

Research Area: Cancer Genetics

Mary Williard Elting, PhD

Mary Williard Elting, PhD

Dr. Elting studies the mechanics of cell division, with the goal of understanding how cells accurately transmit one copy of their genetic information into each of two daughter cells. Mistakes in this process are implicated in cancer, as well as birth defects and miscarriage. She will mechanically disrupt dividing cells and then detect how these perturbations affect the forces generated during division.




Project Title: "Probing how kinetochore-fibers anchor to spindles to robustly and accurately segregate chromosomes"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Sophie Dumont, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Breast

Research Area: Cell Biology

Kenneth Chen, MD

Kenneth Chen, MD

Dr. Chen studies Wilms tumor, a pediatric kidney cancer that is the fourth most common childhood cancer. Wilms tumor is treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation; although outcomes have dramatically improved over the decades, they remain poor for children with high-risk disease. His preliminary research has identified a subset of Wilms tumors with dysregulated expression of microRNAs, a type of short noncoding RNA that regulates protein production. He will study how this dysregulation causes cancer in children and aims to use this information to develop a novel therapeutic strategy for these tumors.




Project Title: "Dysregulation of the N-myc/Lin28/let-7 axis in childhood Wilms tumors"

Institution: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): James F. Amatruda, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: Wilm’s Tumor

Research Area: RNA

Michael A. Cianfrocco, PhD

Michael A. Cianfrocco, PhD

Dr. Cianfrocco [HHMI Fellow] studies proteins called dynactin and dynein that function to transport organelles within the cell, a process that is particularly important during cell division. He aims to elucidate the structural basis for dynactin's ability to regulate dynein activity. Since many viruses, including cancer-causing oncoviruses, require dynein to be transported from the cell membrane to the nucleus for genome replication, understanding the molecular details of dynein-dynactin function may provide novel targets for cancer therapies.




Project Title: "How does dynein achieve processivity?"

Institution: Harvard University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Andres Leschziner, PhD & Samara L. Reck-Peterson, PhD

Cancer Type: Gynecological, Liver

Research Area: Structural Biology

Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD

Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD

Dr. Abdel-Wahab [Edward P. Evans Foundation Clinical Investigator] specializes in specific blood cancers called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myelogenous  leukemia (AML). He recently identified mutations in the gene ASXL1 in patients with MDS and AML. ASXL1 is one of the most commonly mutated genes in MDS patients, and these mutations occur in up to 20% of AML patients. ASXL1 mutations result in a worsened overall survival in MDS and AML patients and contribute to chemotherapy resistance in AML. However, exactly how these mutations contribute to leukemia development remains unknown. He has demonstrated that loss of ASXL1 results in increased expression of genes that are known to promote development of AML. Preliminary data suggests that ASXL1 regulates expression of key genes by affecting proteins called histones. In a mouse model, loss of ASXL1 alone results in a phenotype remarkably similar to human MDS. Moreover, when ASXL1 loss is combined with other genes known to promote chronic leukemia in mice, an acute leukemia develops that hastens death of the mice. His overall goal is to gain a more thorough understanding of ASXL1 function and to ultimately test approved as well as novel targeted therapeutics for treatment of MDS and AML.

 




Project Title: "Understanding and targeting altered histone modifiers in the myeloid malignancies"

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Ross L. Levine, MD

Cancer Type: Leukemias

Research Area: Cancer Genetics

Tracy T. Chow, PhD

Tracy T. Chow, PhD

Dr. Chow studies the molecular basis of how cancer cells maintain the ability to divide indefinitely. In most human cancers, an enzyme named telomerase is crucial in maintaining chromosomal ends (or telomeres) to achieve immortality. She is exploring a novel mechanism for telomere maintenance, which could advance the development of improved therapeutics for glioblastoma and other cancers.




Project Title: "Investigating and engineering non-canonical telomere maintenance mechanisms in human cells"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Cell Biology

Jessica P. Lao, PhD

Jessica P. Lao, PhD

Dr. Lao focuses on genome instability and altered metabolism, which are common characteristics of cancer. The “DNA damage checkpoint” detects and repairs DNA damage to maintain genomic integrity and has also been implicated in regulating metabolism through an unknown mechanism. Identifying metabolic targets of the DNA damage checkpoint will advance our knowledge of the underlying signaling pathway and provide additional targets for cancer therapy.




Project Title: "Identifying metabolic targets of the DNA damage checkpoint"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): David P. Toczyski, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Biochemistry

Justin M. Crest, PhD

Justin M. Crest, PhD

Dr. Crest is studying the mechanical forces between cells and their underlying substrate, or extracellular matrix (ECM). The physical properties of cells and the ECM shape tissues during development and are critical for malignant tumor progression and metastasis. His research will determine which molecules generate and balance the mechanical forces involved in migration and tissue formation and thus identify novel mechanisms of malignancy.




Project Title: "Cells, ECM, and the mechanical forces that regulate organ shape"

Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): David Bilder, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Cell Biology

Shuibin Lin, PhD

Shuibin Lin, PhD

Dr. Lin studies neuroblastoma brain cancers. Genetic amplification and aberrant expression of the oncogenes LIN28B and MYCN are associated with high-risk neuroblastoma and poor survival. Interestingly, these genes positively regulate each other and form a self-reinforcing feedback loop to drive neuroblastoma oncogenesis. His research aims to identify novel factors that interact with LIN28B/MYCN in tumor formation. He is characterizing a LIN28B-interacting long intergenic non-coding RNA (lincRNA) and will determine how the lincRNA functions to regulate neuroblastoma progression.




Project Title: "Molecular and cellular characterization of a novel LincRNA in neuroblastoma"

Institution: Boston Children's Hospital

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Richard Gregory, PhD

Cancer Type: Brain, Neuro-oncology

Research Area: Carcinogenesis

Alex Pollen, PhD

Alex Pollen, PhD

Dr. Pollen is using comparative genomics, single cell gene expression, and stem cell biology approaches to study genes uniquely expressed in human neural stem cells. Because the development of the human brain involves many of the same processes – increased proliferation, migration, and angiogenesis – that become dysregulated in brain tumors, these genes with specific neural stem cell expression may serve as therapeutic targets and diagnostic markers of brain tumor stem cells that initiate glioblastoma and other cancers.




Project Title: "Regulation of proliferation, migration and angiogenesis by genes uniquely expressed in human neural stem cells"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Arnold R. Kriegstein, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: Brain, Neuro-oncology

Research Area: Developmental Neurobiology

Xiaoxiao Shawn Liu, PhD

Xiaoxiao Shawn Liu, PhD

Dr. Liu focuses on the Hedgehog signaling pathway, which plays a central role in embryonic development and tissue regeneration. Dysfunction of this pathway is associated with numerous cancers. He aims to understand how the exterior signal of Hedgehog is transduced across the cell membrane by a membrane protein called Smoothened. A deeper understanding of Hedgehog signal transduction will provide a basis for novel therapies to prevent and inhibit cancers.




Project Title: "Mechanisms of Hedgehog signal transduction by smoothened in the cilium"

Institution: Stanford University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Philip A. Beachy, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Signal Transduction

Eric L. Van Nostrand, PhD

Eric L. Van Nostrand, PhD

Dr. Van Nostrand [Merck Fellow] aims to understand how alterations in RNA processing can lead to cancer development and progression. He will identify RNA processing factors that drive medulloblastoma brain tumor growth and proliferation, and use genomics techniques to profile their regulatory targets. This network will both serve as a tool for understanding basic mechanisms of neuronal and medulloblastoma development and progression, and a means to identify critical modulators of tumor development that can serve as targets for future therapeutics.




Project Title: "Identification and analysis of functionally relevant RNA binding protein regulatory networks immedulloblastoma"

Institution: University of California, San Diego

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Eugene Yeo, PhD

Cancer Type: Brain, Neuro-oncology

Research Area: RNA

Shreeram Akilesh, MD, PhD

Shreeram Akilesh, MD, PhD

Dr. Akilesh focuses on regions of the genome previously thought to be “junk DNA.” Recent studies demonstrate that they in fact contain motifs that serve a vital function in regulation of many genes. Using next-generation sequencing strategies and advanced bioinformatics analyses, he will study the reprogramming of regulatory DNA regions as normal kidney tissues transform into cancers. This research will provide insights into the genomic regulation of kidney cancer that could be used to develop more effective treatments.




Project Title: "Regulatory genomics of kidney cancers"

Institution: University of Washington

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): John A. Stamatoyannopoulos, MD

Cancer Type: Kidney, Wilm’s Tumor

Research Area: Epigenetics

Beverly J. Piggott, PhD

Beverly J. Piggott, PhD

Dr. Piggott [Lefkofsky Family Fellow] is exploring the role of ion channels in brain cancer. Ion channels function as a “gate” to regulate the movement of ions (such as sodium and potassium) into and out of the cell.  They are essential for proper cell growth and signaling in normal cells, and misregulation or mutations in ion channels have been linked to cancer cell proliferation and metastasis. Her goal is to obtain mechanistic insight into the function of ion channels in brain tumors, which may provide new targets for diagnosis and therapeutic intervention.




Project Title: "Brain tumor suppression by mutation(s) of the voltage-gated sodium channel Para"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Yuh Nung-Jan, PhD

Cancer Type: Brain, Neuro-oncology

Research Area: Developmental Neurobiology

Amit J. Sabnis, MD

Amit J. Sabnis, MD

Dr. Sabnis is exploring novel treatment options for rhabdomyosarcomas, the most common pediatric soft tissue sarcomas. These sarcomas uniquely depend on the activity of “protein chaperones” that prevent newly made proteins from forming toxic clumps. His research focuses on small molecules that inhibit one class of chaperones called HSP70s. The goal of these studies is to identify a new target for drug development to help cure this disease.




Project Title: "Exploiting chaperone dependence as a novel therapeutic strategy in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Trever G. Bivona, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: Sarcomas

Research Area: Experimental Therapeutics

Scott Haihua Chu, PhD

Scott Haihua Chu, PhD

Dr. Chu focuses on a promising new class of therapy that inhibits epigenetic regulators, proteins that control the expression and activity of genes through DNA sequence-independent chemical modifications. Much remains unknown about how these new drugs induce specific changes in tumors upon treatment or what their efficacy is in sustaining long-term, durable responses in patients. He plans to characterize the changes induced with the use of such inhibitors in animal and human models of leukemia. These studies may serve as a proof of principle for the broader use of epigenetic inhibitors as a part of cancer therapy.




Project Title: "The role of DOT1L in pediatric leukemias"

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Scott A. Armstrong, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: Leukemias

Research Area: Epigenetics

Jens C. Schmidt, PhD

Jens C. Schmidt, PhD

Dr. Schmidt [Merck Fellow] focuses on understanding how the enzyme telomerase maintains the length of the ends of human chromosomes. This process is crucial to prevent chromosome fusion events, a strong driving force of cancer. In addition, 90% of all cancers require telomerase activity for survival, making it a potential target for cancer therapy. He will use a combination of biophysical, biochemical and cell biological approaches to elucidate how telomerase is recruited to chromosome ends and to identify potential inhibitors of this process.




Project Title: "Single-molecule analysis of telomerase recruitment to telomeres"

Institution: University of Colorado

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Thomas R. Cech, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Biochemistry

Wenwen Fang, PhD

Wenwen Fang, PhD

Dr. Fang [HHMI Fellow] aims to understand the mechanism and regulation of microRNA biogenesis. MicroRNAs function to regulate gene expression and their disruption contributes to the initiation and progression of cancer. She will combine high-throughput sequencing techniques and biochemistry to examine the recognition and processing of microRNA precursors, which may ultimately contribute to more effective cancer diagnosis and therapy.




Project Title: "Mechanism and regulation of primary-microRNA processing"

Institution: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): David P. Bartel, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: RNA

Andrew R. Nager, PhD

Andrew R. Nager, PhD

Dr. Nager [Fayez Sarofim Fellow] is studying the primary cilium, an organelle that cells use to sense the environment and communicate with other cells. To do so, the primary cilium selectively exchanges signaling molecules with the cell body. He is using cell biology, biochemistry, and biophysics to understand the gate between the primary cilium and the cell body. Because dysfunctions of the primary cilium promote cancer and cause developmental disease, this research is an important new avenue of exploration.




Project Title: "Dissecting the mechanism of selective diffusion into the primary cilium"

Institution: Stanford University School of Medicine

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Maxence V. Nachury, PhD

Cancer Type: Brain, Neuro-oncology, Pancreatic, Skin

Research Area: Cell Biology

Cameron J. Turtle, MD, PhD

Cameron J. Turtle, MD, PhD

Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT) is a potentially curative procedure for patients with hematologic malignancies who are otherwise incurable with conventional therapies. Despite advances in post-transplant care, the morbidity and mortality of complications such as graft versus host disease (GVHD) and infections remain significant limitations, and hinder the application of this life-saving procedure. Infection and GVHD are influenced by the immune system, which in turn is regulated by the bacterial contents of the human gastrointestinal tract.
Dr. Turtle will test the hypotheses that alterations in the bacterial composition of the human gastrointestinal tract regulate the reconstitution of a specialized bacteria-responsive subset of immune cells after HCT, and that impaired regulation of this immune cell subset is associated with an increased risk of infection or GVHD.




Project Title: "The impact of the colonic microbiota on reconstitution of CD161hi cells and clinical outcomes after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation"

Institution: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Stanley R. Riddell, MD

Cancer Type: Leukemias, Lymphomas, Myeloma

Research Area: Basic Immunology

Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD

Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD

Lung cancer is responsible for more cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and worldwide each year than any other cancer. Historically, patients with advanced metastatic disease have been treated with conventional chemotherapy. Recently, however, subsets of lung cancer patients have been identified with specific molecular alterations that allow for treatment with rationally chosen targeted therapies. One molecular subset of lung cancer is characterized by the presence of alterations in a protein called ALK tyrosine kinase. Patients with lung cancers that harbor ALK fusions derive significant clinical benefit from a newly approved drug that blocks the action of the mutant ALK. Unfortunately, the degree and duration of tumor response to ALK inhibitor drugs varies, and patients inevitably develop progressive disease, or “acquired resistance.” Additional strategies are needed to improve the treatment of these lung cancer patients.
Dr. Lovly’s goal is to develop novel treatment strategies for ALK positive lung cancer. She plans to improve our understanding of how ALK fusions transmit signals to promote cancer and of how these signals become altered in the context of acquired resistance to ALK inhibitors. Her work will identify novel targets that can be blocked in combination with ALK inhibitors, to promote enhanced anti-tumor responses. Since ALK mutations have been described in a growing number of hematologic and solid organ tumors, an improved understanding of ALK signaling—as well as mechanisms of resistance to ALK inhibition—may also have potential implications for other cancers.




Project Title: "Developing novel therapeutic strategies for ALK-fusion positive lung cancer"

Institution: Vanderbilt University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): William Pao, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: Lung

Research Area: Experimental Therapeutics

Deepak Nijhawan, MD, PhD

Deepak Nijhawan, MD, PhD

Despite recent advances, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer related death in the United States, and there is an urgent need for new therapies. The most successful treatments for lung cancer to date are the targeted drugs erlotinib and crizotinib. These drugs block tumor growth in cancers that respectively harbor either mutations in EGFR or translocations in the ALK gene. Unfortunately, only a minor fraction of patients’ tumors have EGFR mutations or ALK translocations; therefore, the vast majority of patients lack an effective targeted therapy.
Dr. Nijhawan aims to identify novel targets in lung cancer so that similarly effective therapy can be developed for other patients. He has identified a set of chemicals called benzothiazoles that are effective in blocking the growth of 25% of lung cancer cell types tested. The protein target of the benzothiazole and the genetic alterations that predict sensitivity are unknown.  His research focuses on identifying both the benzothiazole protein target as well as predictive biomarkers that explain why only certain lung cancers are susceptible to its effect.  The identification of these biomarkers in lung cancer patients may highlight a set of patients who could be treated with benzothiazole-related compounds.   




Project Title: "Using chemistry to identify new targets in lung cancer"

Institution: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Steve L. McKnight, PhD, and David Johnson, MD

Cancer Type: Lung

Research Area: Chemical Biology

Himisha Beltran, MD

Himisha Beltran, MD

Many prostate cancers initially respond to treatments that block the hormone testosterone, thus halting tumor growth. These treatments block testosterone by targeting a molecule called the androgen receptor (AR). However, patients often develop resistance to these drugs, giving rise to an aggressive AR-independent form of prostate cancer. Often under-recognized, AR-negative neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) currently represents approximately 25% of advanced prostate cancers. The clinical diagnosis is most often made when the cancer has metastasized, especially to liver and brain, and is associated with a low prostate specific antigen (PSA) level. The poor prognosis of NEPC is, in part, due to an incomplete understanding of the molecular events underlying its development.
By utilizing valuable tissue resources and state-of-the-art technologies, Dr. Beltran [Damon Runyon-Gordon Family Clinical Investigator] seeks to comprehensively evaluate NEPC tumors for recurrent molecular alterations and determine their functional and clinical impact. She will identify a genomic profile that distinguishes NEPC from the more common type of prostate cancer, prostate adenocarcinoma, and evaluate the impact of NEPC-associated alterations on patient outcomes and their ability to predict patient response to available therapies. Her goal is to improve our understanding of molecular events associated with disease progression and help develop strategies toward preventing NEPC. Distinguishing NEPC will help identify prostate cancer patients unlikely to benefit from additional AR-targeted strategies and select patients for novel targeted treatment approaches for NEPC.




Project Title: "Utilizing Genome sequencing to elucidate mechanisms of resistance in advanced prostate cancer"

Institution: Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Mark A. Rubin, MD

Cancer Type: Prostate

Research Area: Genomics

Ann Mullally, MD

Ann Mullally, MD

Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) are a type of blood cancer sometimes considered to be “pre-leukemias” which can progress to leukemia and are also lethal cancers in their own right. A population of rare hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), called MPN disease-propagating cells, typically harbor mutations that cause the cells to overproliferate. These mutated HSC produce abnormal cancerous blood cells that over time can eliminate the normal blood cells in the bone marrow. In MPN, the cancerous blood cells secrete an excess of substances called growth factors that allow cancer cells to survive.

Dr. Mullally aims to understand which of the growth factors help the mutated HSC to survive and to then use drugs to block the activity of these growth factors, thus killing the mutated HSC. This approach will lead to more successful treatments for MPN and leukemia, resulting in a higher cure rate for patients.




Project Title: "Determining the role of aberrant growth factor signaling in maintaining disease-propagating cells and mediating JAK2 inhibitor resistance in myeloproliferative neoplasms"

Institution: Brigham and Women's Hospital

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Benjamin L. Ebert, MD, and Daniel J. DeAngelo, MD

Cancer Type: Leukemias

Research Area: Stem Cell Biology

Lydia Finley, PhD

Lydia Finley, PhD

Dr. Finley [Jack Sorrell Fellow] examines how cells sense their nutritional status to regulate cell growth. Cancer cells rewire their metabolic pathways to support rapid growth, often subverting the normal checks and balances that guard against uncontrolled proliferation. Her research will provide insight into the metabolic cues that control growth in normal cells and the metabolic alterations that cancer cells may adopt to support tumorigenesis.




Project Title: "Regulation of cancer cell growth and survival by the propionate catabolic pathway"

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Craig B. Thompson, MD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Colorectal

Research Area: Cell Biology

Nicholas Arpaia, PhD

Nicholas Arpaia, PhD

Dr. Arpaia [Robert Black Fellow] focuses on how the immune system distinguishes between beneficial gut bacteria versus those that may be pathogenic and cause disease. Changes in the levels of these microbes and the metabolites they produce are correlated with cancer-associated intestinal inflammatory disorders like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. His research may aid in the development of new therapeutics aimed at treating aberrant inflammation that can lead to cancer.




Project Title: "The role of microbiota-derived metabolic signals in shaping the intestinal immune landscape "

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Alexander Y. Rudensky, PhD

Cancer Type: Colorectal

Research Area: Basic Immunology

Christine R. Beck, PhD

Christine R. Beck, PhD

Dr. Beck [HHMI Fellow]  is investigating the mechanisms that are involved in complex genomic rearrangements, such as gene duplications and triplications. The replication-based DNA repair pathways that lead to complexity and copy number gain in human genomes are not well understood. Studying the mechanisms by which copy number changes occur may elucidate fundamental processes that lead to cell transformation and cancer in humans.




Project Title: "Mechanisms underlying copy number gain in cancer and genomic disorderassociated complex rearrangements"

Institution: Baylor College of Medicine

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): James R. Lupski, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Genomics

Chih-Yung Lee, PhD

Chih-Yung Lee, PhD

Dr. Lee [HHMI Fellow] is studying how the first germ cell is specified during embryonic development. Several characteristics of germ cells are reminiscent of cancer cells, including rapid proliferation, totipotency and immortality. Furthermore, proteins expressed specifically in the germline are often misexpressed in tumors. Identifying new genes and pathways required for germ cell development will provide insights into how re-activation of germ cell fate is triggered during tumorigenesis.




Project Title: "Regulation of primordial germ cell fate in C. elegans"

Institution: Johns Hopkins University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Geraldine Seydoux, PhD

Cancer Type: Testicular

Research Area: RNA

Gabriel C. Lander, PhD

Gabriel C. Lander, PhD

Dr. Lander will use high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy to characterize the structural organization of the large protein complexes that make up “molecular machines” in cells. By determining the molecular architecture of these machines, he aims to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms that underlie important biological processes such as cell cycle regulation and cell division. He is currently focusing on a macromolecule called the proteasome, which recognizes and degrades unwanted or dangerous proteins. Recent studies suggest that the proteasome may play a role in suppressing tumorigenesis, and that certain antitumor drugs interact with the proteasome. This research will be invaluable in defining proteasomal biochemistry, potentially revealing novel approaches to detect and suppress the onset of tumorigenesis in a wide variety of cancers.




Project Title: "Deciphering the structural basis of macromolecular functions involved in cellular homeostasis"

Institution: The Scripps Research Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Structural Biology

Ari J. Firestone, PhD

Ari J. Firestone, PhD

Dr. Firestone is exploring novel strategies for inhibiting the cancer-causing activity of the N-Ras oncoprotein, which plays an important role in promoting cellular growth and survival. Ras mutations frequently found in many types of cancer lead to uncontrolled proliferation. Using a combination of genetic and pharmacological approaches in mouse models of Ras-driven leukemia, he aims to determine whether disrupting the subcellular localization of Ras could be an effective therapeutic intervention.  




Project Title: "Investigation of Acyl Protein Thioesterase 1 and 2 as potential therapeutic targets in NRAS driven leukemias"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Kevin M. Shannon, MD

Cancer Type: Leukemias

Research Area: Signal Transduction

Maria M. Mihaylova, PhD

Maria M. Mihaylova, PhD

Dr. Mihaylova [Robert Black Fellow] aims to understand how aberrant nutrient sensing can lead to metabolic reprogramming and transformation. Utilizing a mouse model, she will examine the re-wiring of cellular metabolism in intestinal stem cells in response to dietary changes. She hopes that these studies will lead to insights about how nutrient sensing in these cells affects stem cell maintenance and tumorigenesis.




Project Title: "Examining how nutrient state dependent metabolic reprogramming in the Paneth cells controls intestinal stem cell renewal, differentiation and tumorigenesis"

Institution: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): David M. Sabatini, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Gastric

Research Area: --

Wenyu Luo, PhD

Wenyu Luo, PhD

Dr. Luo is exploring the neuronal and genetic basis of stress-induced depression-like behavior in Drosophila. Loss of resilience to stress leads to depression and other mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which may increase the risk of other severe diseases including liver and lung cancers. This research may develop new stress intervention approaches to improve quality of life in cancer patients.




Project Title: "A Drosophila model to study resilience to social stress and depression-like behavior"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Yuh-Nung Jan, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Liver, Lung

Research Area: Animal Models/Mouse Models

Junjie U. Guo, PhD

Junjie U. Guo, PhD

Dr. Guo is investigating how regulatory RNAs function by interacting with their target RNAs. Misregulation of these interactions has been shown to contribute to tumorigenesis. He aims to develop a high-throughput experimental strategy that can identify these interactions within each RNA and between different RNAs. These findings will not only expand the current knowledge of existing types of RNA-RNA interactions, but will also reveal novel RNA-RNA interactions that may give rise to new therapeutic strategies.




Project Title: "Charting the in vivo landscape of RNA-RNA interactions"

Institution: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): David P. Bartel, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: RNA

Serkan Kir, PhD

Serkan Kir, PhD

Dr. Kir is studying the signaling mechanisms that mediate cancer cachexia, a wasting disorder of adipose fat tissue and skeletal muscle that leads to profound weight loss. Up to 50% of cancer patients suffer from cachexia, which reduces quality of life, limits treatment options and shortens survival time. Cancer cachexia increases the amount and activity of brown fat, a key metabolic tissue that dissipates chemical energy as heat. Identification of tumor-derived factors that regulate brown fat activity could lead to new therapeutic strategies to prevent cancer cachexia.




Project Title: "Identification of factors that induce brown fat activity in cancer cachexia"

Institution: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Bruce M. Spiegelman, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Cell Biology

Summer B. Thyme, PhD

Summer B. Thyme, PhD

Dr. Thyme [HHMI Fellow] is engineering protein tools to alter epigenetic modifications in important developmental pathways in a zebrafish model. Epigenetic misregulation, particularly of key regulators of cell fate specification, underlies a vast number of cancers. These tools could be applied to reprogram cell fate, as a means of treating epigenetically mediated diseases such as cancer.




Project Title: "Chromatin modifications and pioneer transcription factors in development"

Institution: Harvard University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Alexander F. Schier, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Epigenetics

Ozlem Yildirim, PhD

Ozlem Yildirim, PhD

Dr. Yildirim [HHMI Fellow] aims to identify factors that maintain cellular identity during mammalian cell proliferation. This will shed light on how cells remember which cell type they were and should become after division. A mechanistic understanding of this process will yield new insights into the many cell fate changes cancer cells display during their abnormal growth.




Project Title: "Role of LncRNAs in inheritance of chromatin states during self-renewal & differentiation"

Institution: Massachusetts General Hospital

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Robert E. Kingston, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Chromatin Biology

Dmitriy Zamarin, MD, PhD

Dmitriy Zamarin, MD, PhD

Dr. Zamarin [Dr. Bart A. Kamen Fellow] is studying oncolytic viruses, a class of promising emerging cancer therapeutics. Oncolytic viruses can efficiently and specifically lyse cancer cells; they also induce important tumor-specific immune responses that can be active throughout the body. He is exploring different immunotherapeutic strategies to circumvent the limitations of oncolytic viruses and to make oncolytic virus-based immunotherapy applicable to all cancer types.




Project Title: "Immunotherapeutic approach to cancer treatment integrating oncolytic virotherapy and immune checkpoint regulation"

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Immunotherapy

Alba Diz Muñoz, PhD

Alba Diz Muñoz, PhD

Dr. Muñoz aims to develop a precise understanding of how cells migrate and decipher the differences between cell migration in a physiological context (such as immune cells) and that of a cancer cell. She will determine how physical forces affect specific molecular component(s) of the signaling pathway that directs motility. The ability to control cell migration would be a valuable tool for combating cancer metastasis.




Project Title: "How neutrophils convert changes in membrane tension to changes in intracellular signaling during chemotaxis"

Institution: University of California San Francisco, and University of California, Berkeley

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Orion D. Weiner, PhD, and Daniel A. Fletcher, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Biophysics

Adam de la Zerda, PhD

Adam de la Zerda, PhD

Dr. de la Zerda is building tools that would allow scientists, for the first time, to look inside a tumor and directly visualize the signaling that takes place between cancer cells in a tumor.  Learning about this signaling is essential to our understanding of cancer growth, spread and response to treatment.  Such new understanding will ultimately translate to better diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.




Project Title: "Molecular imaging of cell-cell signaling in the tumor microenvironment"

Institution: Stanford University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Prostate

Research Area: Imaging

Evgenia N. Nikolova, PhD

Evgenia N. Nikolova, PhD

Dr. Nikolova [Robert Black Fellow] aims to elucidate the molecular mechanism of gene silencing mediated by the protein Kaiso. Kaiso interacts with its target DNA sequences to silence genes involved in the development and spread of cancer. Previous studies suggest that Kaiso acts as a tumor suppressor gene that can block cells from progressing to cancer; irregular Kaiso function is linked to cancer cell proliferation in a number of human cancers including colon, prostate, breast and lung cancers, as well as leukemia. Understanding the manner by which Kaiso associates with DNA and other proteins to control the expression of cancer-related genes may aid in the design of novel cancer treatments.




Project Title: "Recognition of methylated and specific DNA sequences by the zinc finger transcriptional repressor Kaiso and modulation by other nuclear factors"

Institution: The Scripps Research Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Peter E. Wright, PhD

Cancer Type: Breast, Gastric, Lung, Lymphomas, Prostate

Research Area: Biophysics

John J. Karijolich, PhD

John J. Karijolich, PhD

Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the causative agent of Kaposi sarcoma (KS), a cancer that commonly occurs in immunocompromised individuals, particularly in those infected by HIV. While several studies have suggested that HIV plays an important role in the development of KS, exactly how HIV/KSHV co-infection contributes to cancer formation is not well understood. Dr. Karijolich seeks to define mechanisms exploited by these two viruses to promote an environment conducive to cancer formation. The successful outcome of this work has the potential to identify novel mechanisms that promote the development of cancer, and may lead to novel therapeutic targets.




Project Title: "Characterizing mechanisms by which Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus modulates cellular gene expression"

Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Britt A. Glaunsinger, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Biochemistry

Bradley L. Pentelute, PhD

Bradley L. Pentelute, PhD

Antibodies have proven to be powerful tools in cancer research, facilitating the elucidation of disease mechanisms and generating novel and effective anti-cancer therapeutics. However, antibody biotechnology is limited by one major factor: the inability of antibodies to effectively cross the cell membrane to reach the inside of the cell, or cytosol. A new strategy is clearly necessary—one based on facile and reliable delivery of active antibody-like molecules into various cell types.

Dr. Pentelute plans to construct a new, targeted delivery platform capable of introducing stable molecules that mimic antibodies (deemed “intrabodies”). He will use this proposed delivery platform to strike the intracellular cancer target Bcr-Abl for treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. He also aims to target the cancer-promoting complex p53/MDM2 in cancer cells. Through these innovative studies, he aims to advance the frontier by delivering a diverse array of antibody-like molecules into cells for cancer therapy.




Project Title: "Striking cancer with intracellular antibodies"

Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Chemical Biology

Christine Mayr, MD, PhD

Christine Mayr, MD, PhD

[Island Outreach Foundation Innovator of the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award]

Cancer is thought to arise through a series of genetic mutations in the DNA sequence. Depending on the location of these errors and the genes that are affected, these mutations lead to the many different features that characterize cancer cells such as uncontrolled proliferation, escape from cell death and metastasis.

Dr. Mayr proposes the existence of a new type of anomaly that can lead to cancer: non-genetic aberrations induced by modifications of RNAs, which have so far been excluded from large-scale cancer genomics efforts. She has developed a new method to identify this type of aberration in different cancers and will investigate its frequency and functional consequences for tumor growth. Her studies will help to broaden the understanding of cancers and may also help in the design of new therapeutics.




Project Title: "A functional atlas of lymphoma specific aberrations generated by RNA processing"

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: All cancers, Lymphomas

Research Area: Cancer Genetics

Agnel Sfeir, PhD

Agnel Sfeir, PhD

Each cell contains organelles called mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of cells, producing energy in the form of ATP. Mitochondria contain their own separate DNA, which codes for key energy-producing enzymes. Maintaining the integrity of the mitochondrial genome is necessary for optimal cellular function and for protection against diseases. Alterations in mitochondrial DNA are associated with and can promote metastasis of many tumors, such as lung, breast and prostate. Such aberrations range from single base substitutions to large-scale deletions that remove segments of the mitochondrial genome. The mechanism by which these aberrations influence disease progression remains unclear.

Dr. Sfeir aims to uncover the underlying basis for accumulation of these highly dangerous deletions in mitochondrial DNA and the mechanism by which they shape tumor behavior. This work will help identify novel strategies to preserve mitochondrial function and thwart tumor progression.




Project Title: "Pathways involved in preserving the genomic stability of mitochondrial DNA"

Institution: NYU Lagone Medical Center, Skirball Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Cancer Genetics

Sarah (Sadie) M. Wignall, PhD

Sarah (Sadie) M. Wignall, PhD

[Lau/Palihapitiya Innovator]

Cancer cells exhibit uncontrolled growth and proliferation, leading to the formation of malignant tumors. Therefore, many current cancer therapies are aimed at trying to block cell multiplication, with the goal of killing cancerous cells and halting tumor growth. However, many of these treatments also affect the growth and division of non-cancerous cells in the body, leading to severe side effects. 

Dr. Wignall will investigate a pathway required for the division of cancerous, but not normal cells. This pathway regulates a physical structure in the cell called the centrosome. By learning more about this pathway, she hopes to ultimately contribute to designing therapies that will specifically attack cancer cells, leading to better treatment options for cancer patients.




Project Title: "Probing centrosome-clustering mechanisms to identify targets for new cancer therapies"

Institution: Northwestern University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Proliferation/Cell Cycle

Nicholas E. Navin, PhD

Nicholas E. Navin, PhD

[Nadia's Gift Foundation Innovator]

Tumors evolve from single cells. As they expand to form the tumor mass, the cells diverge and form distinct subpopulations with different genetic mutations. This salient characteristic is called “intratumor heterogeneity” and confounds basic research and clinical diagnostics. The challenge is that standard genomic tools require a large amount of input material and thus are limited to measuring an average signal from a complex population of cells. 


Dr. Navin proposes the development of an innovative single-cell sequencing tool that can detect genomic mutations in single cancer cells, allowing heterogeneity in tumors to be delineated. He will apply this technique to study how single breast cancer cells disseminate from the primary tumor into the circulatory system and seed metastatic tumors. In addition, this method will have a myriad of clinical applications, which have prognostic value in predicting invasion, metastasis, survival and response to chemotherapy. Translating these methods into the clinic is likely to have a profound effect on reducing morbidity in breast cancer and other cancer types.




Project Title: "Developing single-cell sequencing methods to investigate metastatic seeding in breast cancer"

Institution: University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Breast

Research Area: Genomics

Trudy G. Oliver, PhD

Trudy G. Oliver, PhD

Many cancers initially respond to therapy. However, cancers often acquire resistance and stop responding to further treatment. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an example of a cancer that is highly sensitive to initial treatment, but quickly acquires a vicious resistance resulting in a five-year patient survival rate of less than 4%. In order to combat drug resistance and improve the quality of life for patients with SCLC, it is important to understand the key genetic changes and cellular pathways that drive resistance.

Dr. Oliver will use the most innovative next-generation sequencing technologies to comprehensively identify critical genetic changes associated with resistance. These findings will be essential for understanding how lung cancer, and potentially other types of cancer, evades chemotherapy. In addition, this work will identify novel pathways that could be targeted to re-establish drug sensitivity and thereby provide new treatment options for patients with drug-resistant disease. 




Project Title: "Mechanisms of drug resistance in small cell lung cancer"

Institution: Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s):

Cancer Type: Lung

Research Area: Chemoresistance

Michael Z. Lin, MD, PhD

Michael Z. Lin, MD, PhD

Currently available cancer treatments, such as chemotherapeutics, targeted inhibitors or immunotherapies, are not capable of fully eradicating cancers and are limited by toxicities and side effects.

Dr. Lin aims to take a new approach to cancer treatment by engineering a virus that will infect and replicate specifically in cancer cells, triggering their destruction. This strategy aims not to suppress oncogenic signaling, but to use it as a trigger for a smart biological therapy. If he succeeds, progress will be made toward developing a much-needed “magic bullet” against cancer.




Project Title: "Building the magic bullet: protein switches for sensing oncogenic signals and executing therapeutic programs"

Institution: Stanford University School of Medicine

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): n/a

Cancer Type: Breast, Colorectal, Head and Neck

Research Area: Signal Transduction

Li He, PhD

Li He, PhD

Dr. He is studying how organ size and quality are controlled. Cell competition is a Darwinian-like phenomenon by which cells possessing unequal “fitness” compete with each other during tissue growth or regeneration. Activation of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in the “loser” cells in turn triggers compensatory proliferation of the “winners.” This process can eliminate tumor cells at an early stage; however, it may also be hijacked by cancer cells to invade the healthy tissue. His goal is to combine both in vitro and in vivo systems to generate a comprehensive understanding of signals that govern this process.

 




Project Title: "Molecular characterization of cell competition and compensatory cell proliferation in Drosophila "

Institution: Harvard Medical School

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Norbert Perrimon, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Signal Transduction

Shijing Luo, PhD

Shijing Luo, PhD

Dr. Luo [Miles S. Nadal Fellow] aims to characterize the wound healing process and its influence on skin tumorigenesis. Chronic injury and aberrant wound healing are correlated with enhanced susceptibility to skin cancer and metastasis. Her goals are to reveal the key missing links of the relationship between wound repair and cancer, and to provide insights into the prevention and treatment of skin cancer and metastasis.




Project Title: "Identifying genetic regulators and mechanisms of stem cell migration in wound repair"

Institution: The Rockefeller University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD

Cancer Type: Skin

Research Area: Stem Cell Biology

Melanie Issigonis, PhD

Melanie Issigonis, PhD

Dr. Issigonis [HHMI Fellow] studies the mechanisms by which somatic stem cells produce germ cells, the cells that give rise to either egg or sperm. Germ cells and cancer cells share several characteristics such as immortalization (transformation) and migration (metastasis). A wide range of cancers arise when germ cell developmental pathways are erroneously activated in somatic cells. Identifying the processes underlying germ cell specification and development will help elucidate the factors that trigger misexpression of germ cell genes in cancer cells.




Project Title: "Germ cell specification from somatic stem cells in planarians"

Institution: University of Illinois

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Phillip A. Newmark, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Stem Cell Biology

Gamze Ö. Çamdere, PhD

Gamze Ö. Çamdere, PhD

Dr. Çamdere is using structural biological analysis and in vitro assays to understand how a protein called cohesion interacts with DNA. During cell division, cohesin is the protein complex that holds sister chromatids (replicated chromosomes) together until the onset of cell division, when each copy goes to one daughter cell. Cohesin is required for proper chromosome segregation, DNA repair, gene expression, and overall maintenance of genomic integrity. A better understanding of cohesin will provide important insights into chromosome organization and biology, as well as shed light onto the pathology of cancer.




Project Title: "In vitro and in vivo characterization of cohesin-DNA interaction"

Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Douglas E. Koshland, PhD

Cancer Type: Breast, Colorectal, Gynecological, Kidney, Prostate, Thyroid

Research Area: Chromosome and Telomere Biology

Karl A. Merrick, PhD

Karl A. Merrick, PhD

Dr. Merrick is studying how inflammation affects the development of colorectal cancer and the response of these tumors to chemotherapy. By using animal models and highly quantitative systems-based approaches, he hopes to identify novel therapies and develop methods to predict the efficacy of drug treatment.




Project Title: "Elucidating how inflammation affects tumorigenesis and response to chemotherapy in colon cancer"

Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Michael B. Yaffe, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Colorectal

Research Area: Signal Transduction

Steven D. Cappell, PhD

Steven D. Cappell, PhD

Dr. Cappell aims to understand the precise molecular events that allow cells to enter the cell cycle (process of cell division), by applying quantitative time-lapse microscopy, live-cell fluorescent reporters and mathematical modeling. The beginning of the cell cycle, the G1/S phase transition, represents the commitment to cell division and is deregulated in nearly all types of cancers. He hopes to identify new regulatory elements controlling the G1/S transition that can be targeted for therapeutic benefit. 




Project Title: "Molecular dynamics of the G1/S transition"

Institution: Stanford University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Tobias Meyer, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Proliferation/Cell Cycle

Michael J. Smanski, PhD

Michael J. Smanski, PhD

Dr. Smanski [HHMI Fellow] is examining magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs), which possess unique physical properties that have led to several clinical applications in cancer diagnosis and therapy. Several species of bacteria have been found to naturally produce MNPs with exquisite control over size and shape that is unmatched by current chemical synthesis methods. He aims to understand how bacterial synthesis of MNPs relies on the coordinated expression of several dozen genes.




Project Title: "Refactoring the genetics of magnetic nanoparticle synthesis"

Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Christopher A. Voigt, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Systems Biology

Gira Bhabha, PhD

Gira Bhabha, PhD

Dr. Bhabha [Merck Fellow] is using electron and light microscopy techniques to study the structure and atomic motions of dynein, a molecular motor protein that “walks” along “tracks” in the cell called microtubules. Dynein functions to transport cargos such as organelles and vesicles to their correct cellular locations, which is essential for cell survival. Its crucial role in cargo transport as well as in cell division makes dynein an important molecule to potentially target for cancer treatment.




Project Title: "High-resolution studies of dynein structure and mechanism"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Ronald D. Vale, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Biophysics

Christopher J. Shoemaker, PhD

Christopher J. Shoemaker, PhD

Dr. Shoemaker is studying autophagy, a process of cellular housekeeping and energy generation. The activation of autophagy can facilitate cancer drug resistance. By better understanding the processes that govern autophagy, he ultimately seeks to limit the effects of drug resistance during cancer treatment. 




Project Title: "Elucidating the molecular mechanics of autophagy using a cell-free system"

Institution: Harvard University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Vlad Denic, PhD and Andrew W. Murray, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Biochemistry

Lara E. Davis, MD

Lara E. Davis, MD

Dr. Davis seeks to develop individualized, molecularly-targeted cancer therapy for osteosarcoma, a disease that accounts for only 2% of all pediatric cancers but is responsible for over 8% of all pediatric cancer deaths. She will establish primary cell cultures of osteosarcoma tumor samples from patients and identify genetic pathways in each individual sample that can be targeted with therapeutic agents. She will also use computer modeling to design drug combinations that may prevent the development of drug resistance. The goal of the proposed project is to improve osteosarcoma survival while decreasing therapy-related toxicity.




Project Title: "Osteosarcoma as a proof-of-concept model for personalized cancer therapy"

Institution: Oregon Health & Science University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Charles Keller, MD

Cancer Type: Sarcomas

Research Area: Experimental Therapeutics

Christopher J. Bohlen, PhD

Christopher J. Bohlen, PhD

Dr.  Bohlen is studying how cells of the nervous system called microglia communicate to other cell types during nerve injury. He seeks to identify microglia-neuron and microglia-astroglia signals that contribute to chronic pain induced by tumors. This research will identify potential targets of palliative therapies for cancer patients, and will provide insights into signaling pathways that may become activated or misregulated in brain cancers such as gliomas.




Project Title: "Glial activation in neuropathic injury and pain"

Institution: Stanford University School of Medicine

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Ben A. Barres, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Neuroscience

Elie J. Diner, PhD

Elie J. Diner, PhD

Dr. Diner aims to develop novel protein-based therapeutics for cancer treatment.  He will utilize innovative chemical approaches to incorporate "unnatural amino acids" into proteins, thus engineering proteins that can be used to target and block cancer cells.  This research may lead to the development of highly targeted and effective new therapies.




Project Title: "Transcription of an expanded genetic alphabet in a semi-synthetic bacterium"

Institution: The Scripps Research Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Floyd Romesberg, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Basic Immunology

Stephanie C. Weber, PhD

Stephanie C. Weber, PhD

Dr. Weber [HHMI Fellow] is investigating control of cell size. She aims to understand how the size and activity of the nucleolus, a subnuclear organelle that has been implicated in tumorigenesis, contributes to cell, tissue and body size.  Cancer cells are often smaller or larger than normal, suggesting that the mechanisms controlling cell size break down during the course of the disease. 




Project Title: "Mechanisms controlling cell and body size in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans"

Institution: Princeton University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Clifford P. Brangwynne, PhD and Howard A. Stone, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Developmental Biology

Lisa R. Racki, PhD

Lisa R. Racki, PhD

Dr. Racki [HHMI Fellow] is studying metabolism of compounds called polyphosphates in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterial pathogen that can lead to lethal infections in immunocompromised cancer patients. Polyphosphates, inorganic polymers linked by specific chemical bonds, play a role in virulence in P. aeruginosa, but are also evolutionarily ubiquitous and found from bacteria to mammalian cells. A better understanding of polyphosphate metabolism in a model bacterial pathogen may aid in the design of treatments for cancer-associated pathogens and may also shed light on the poorly understood role of polyphosphates in mammalian cell growth.




Project Title: "Polyphosphates and stationary phase survival"

Institution: California Institute of Technology

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Dianne K. Newman, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Microbiology

Damian C. Ekiert, PhD

Damian C. Ekiert, PhD

Dr. Ekiert is exploring the complex network of interactions between the host immune system and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the pathogen that causes tuberculosis (TB) in humans. In order to survive and replicate inside host cells, M. tuberculosis must evade detection by the immune system and interfere with multiple antimicrobial pathways that would otherwise lead to the destruction of the bacteria. Investigating the interactions between M. tuberculosis and host factors may uncover new therapeutic targets for the treatment of TB infection.  Moreover, understanding how pathogens escape immune recognition may shed light on how cancerous cells evade detection by similar tissue surveillance mechanisms.




Project Title: "Exploring the role of a novel, polymorphic protein family in M. tuberculosis pathogenesis"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jeffery S. Cox, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Lung

Research Area: Infectious Disease

Leo D. Wang, MD, PhD

Leo D. Wang, MD, PhD

Dr. Wang studies leukemia, which is caused by rapidly and inappropriately dividing blood cells. These quickly proliferating cells derive from leukemia stem cells (LSCs) that are present only in very low numbers and are highly resistant to conventional chemotherapy. The persistence of LSCs is a large part of why high-risk leukemias such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are difficult to treat and often fatal. His research focuses on finding the activated protein circuits that are specific to and responsible for the development of LSCs. His goal is to understand what makes LSCs different from normal blood stem cells, and to use that knowledge to develop new and innovative therapies for childhood blood cancers.




Project Title: "Phosphoproteomic identification of therapeutic targets in AML stem cells"

Institution: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Amy J. Wagers, PhD

Cancer Type: Leukemias

Research Area: Stem Cell Biology

Anne H. Bothmer, PhD

Anne H. Bothmer, PhD


Dr. Bothmer [The Jake Wetchler Foundation Fellow for Pediatric Innovation] is studying how the function of ribosomes, cellular machines responsible for making protein, is changed in cancer cells. She plans to characterize how the composition of ribosomes in cancerous cells differs from that of ribosomes in normal cells, and to test whether these differences contribute to the development of diseases such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Elucidating how cancer cells differ from normal cells will ultimately contribute to the development of novel therapeutic options for the treatment of cancer.




Project Title: "Identification and characterization of novel ribosome-associated proteins and their role in hematopoietic development and disease"

Institution: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Leukemias

Research Area: Biochemistry

Mingye Feng, PhD

Mingye Feng, PhD

Dr. Feng is studying immunosurveillance in metastasis, which is mediated by cells called macrophages. Cancer cells are confronted with multiple challenges during metastasis, including macrophage-mediated programmed cell removal in the circulation and distant organs. He will focus on defining the mechanisms utilized by metastatic cancer cells to evade programmed cell removal and developing strategies to promote the clearance of metastatic cancer cells by macrophages. This research will advance our knowledge of the basic principles of cancer development and metastasis, and may inspire a new class of therapeutics for cancer treatment.




Project Title: "Macrophage-mediated immunosurveillance in metastasis"

Institution: Stanford University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Irving L. Weissman, MD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Cell Biology

Angela J. Sievert, MD

Angela J. Sievert, MD

Dr. Sievert is committed to developing more effective treatments for the many children diagnosed with brain tumors each year. Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death in children. Mutations in BRAF, an oncogene that can drive cancer growth, are prevalent in pediatric astrocytomas. By studying how mutated BRAF can be targeted by the newest classes of cancer drugs, she hopes to understand why and how these tumors develop in children and which treatments might work best. Her preliminary research has shown that different BRAF mutations identified in pediatric astrocytomas respond differently to targeted BRAF treatments. These studies will be the basis for moving novel, targeted treatment strategies into the clinic to treat the many children afflicted by this devastating cancer.




Project Title: "Preclinical models for therapeutic targeting of BRAF altered pediatric astrocytomas"

Institution: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): John M. Maris, MD

Cancer Type: Brain, Neuro-oncology

Research Area: Signal Transduction

Angela N. Brooks, PhD

Angela N. Brooks, PhD

Dr. Brooks [Merck Fellow] is analyzing cancer genome sequence data to identify DNA mutations that affect RNA splicing, a form of gene processing and regulation. By characterizing these mutations, her work will provide further understanding of the role of splicing alterations in cancer as well as insight into the functional consequences of cancer mutations.




Project Title: "Characterizing somatic mutations that affect mRNA splicing in cancer"

Institution: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Matthew L. Meyerson, MD, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Leukemias, Lung

Research Area: Genomics

Arun P. Wiita, MD, PhD

Arun P. Wiita, MD, PhD

Dr. Wiita is using a powerful technique called mass spectrometry to isolate and identify proteins degraded during cell death and released into the bloodstream shortly after starting chemotherapy.  Chemotherapy is frequently the mainstay of therapy for patients with cancer, yet the current tests available to assess whether chemotherapy is working are typically quite expensive and can only be used weeks to months after the start of therapy. His goal is to identify proteins that can serve as rapid and inexpensive markers of chemotherapeutic efficacy, enabling more effective individualized chemotherapeutic regimens for cancer patients.

 




Project Title: "Novel biomarker discovery for monitoring chemotherapeutic efficacy"

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): James A. Wells, PhD

Cancer Type: Leukemias, Lymphomas, Myeloma

Research Area: Diagnostics

Alistair N. Boettiger, PhD

Alistair N. Boettiger, PhD

Dr. Boettiger aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of gene silencing through the application of novel super-resolution microscopy techniques. Gene silencing is an important developmental process whereby genes that are not needed in certain tissues are turned off. Loss of silencing can lead to the expression of genes that promote cell proliferation and migration, leading to cancer. The ability to restore and maintain natural patterns of gene silencing may successfully block cancer.




Project Title: "Using super resolution imaging to probe molecular mechanisms of Polycomb silencing"

Institution: Harvard University

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Xiaowei Zhuang, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers

Research Area: Chromatin Biology

Laura Pontano Vaites, PhD

Laura Pontano Vaites, PhD

Dr. Pontano Vaites focuses on the autophagy pathway, a critical regulatory network of proteins that allows cells to recycle cellular components to survive nutrient-depleted conditions. Deregulation of autophagy leads to diseases, including cancer. She aims to understand the role of key regulatory complexes and to utilize new quantitative methodologies to identify novel pathway components. The proposed work will provide detailed insight into the dynamics and organization of complexes required for autophagy and how this organization may be disrupted in cancer.




Project Title: "Investigating the role of the CRL3-KBTBD6/7 E3 ubiquitin ligase in autophagosome maturation"

Institution: Harvard Medical School

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): J. Wade Harper, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Pancreatic

Research Area: Cell Biology

Michael E. Pacold, MD, PhD

Michael E. Pacold, MD, PhD

Dr. Pacold [Sally Gordon Fellow] studies dehydrogenases, a class of metabolic enzymes that synthesize the building blocks required for the survival and proliferation of cancer cells. His goal is to develop compounds that block the activity of dehydrogenases essential for the growth of treatment-refractory cancers, with a particular focus on certain breast cancers.

 




Project Title: "Targeting dehydrogenases in cancer metabolism"

Institution: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): David M. Sabatini, MD, PhD & Nathanael S. Gray, PhD

Cancer Type: All cancers, Breast

Research Area: Chemical Biology

Sarat Chandarlapaty, MD, PhD

Sarat Chandarlapaty, MD, PhD

The PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway normally conveys cues from the cell’s environment into programs that promote cellular growth, division, and motility.  Components of the PI3K signaling pathway are mutated in greater than 70% of all breast cancers and promote the persistent and exaggerated cell growth that is necessary for tumor formation and survival.  This pathway is therefore a promising target for treating breast cancers; however, drugs designed to target the PI3K signaling pathway are initially effective but resistance rapidly develops.

Dr. Chandarlapaty [Patterson Trust Clinical Investigator] seeks to understand how tumor cells rapidly adapt to PI3K inhibitor drugs.  His initial studies indicate that cancer cells use a cellular mechanism called “negative feedback” to either activate alternative signaling pathways not blocked by the drug or reactivate the PI3K pathway.  His goal is to identify other targets that can be blocked in combination with the PI3K pathway to more effectively kill cancer cells but not normal cells. These combinations will be tested in clinical trials in breast cancer patients with mutations in the PI3K pathway.




Project Title: "Therapeutic approaches to PI3K-AKT-mTOR feedback pathways in breast cancer"

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Neal Rosen, MD, PhD, and Clifford A. Hudis, MD

Cancer Type: Breast

Research Area: Signal Transduction