Lyndsay M. Murrow, PhD

Dr. Murrow is using an engineered 3D model of the human mammary gland to determine how stem cells in the breast sense and respond to overall cellular composition. She aims to understand how sparsely distributed stem cells use local cues in the tissue to sense global changes in cell number. Since loss of tissue organization and abnormal stem cell differentiation are two key features underlying breast cancer development, this work will help identify new strategies for breast cancer prevention and treatment.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

 

Özlem Aksoy, PhD

Dr. Aksoy is establishing a human stem-cell based model of medulloblastoma brain tumors that can be rapidly manipulated, allowing insights into how genetic mutation contributes to medulloblastoma tumorigenesis and how these mutations cooperate in tumor formation. She will study the highest-risk subtype of medulloblastoma, with the goal of understanding the possible role of translational control in this cancer. She will test both novel and existing mTOR inhibitors as a potential therapeutic strategy for patients.