All Cancers

Current Projects
Philip B. Abitua, PhD

Dr. Abitua studies the development of the African turquoise killifish, Nothobranchius furzeri, a promising model organism to investigate cell migration in vivo. He seeks to understand how cells aggregate through a mesenchymal to epithelial transition (MET) during embryogenesis. Using light sheet microscopy, he plans to image and analyze this highly dynamic phenomenon in order to make predictions about how cells decide to change their behavior during MET, an understudied process that is casual for malignancy. 

Project title: "Developmental mechanisms of killifish cell dispersion and aggregation"
Institution: Harvard University
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Alexander Schier, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Animal Models/Mouse Models
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
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jonathan S. Weissman, PhD
Cancer Type: Blood, All Cancers
Research Area: Protein Processing
Matthew Bakalar, PhD

Dr. Bakalar is developing new methods to discover the millions of interactions between T-cell receptors and foreign antigens that trigger an immune response. In many cancers, such as metastatic melanoma, immunotherapy depends on the ability of T cells to recognize and respond to tumor-specific neoantigens—new proteins found on cancer cells, which let the immune system know that these are not normal cells. Collecting the data on this relationship can help create computational models to predict the antigen-target of a patient’s individual T cell receptor, which could then guide the design of patient-specific cancer vaccines and engineering of new, tumor-targeting T cells.

Project title: Predicting the interactions of T cell receptors with peptide-MHC complexes
Institution: The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Nir Hacohen, PhD
Cancer Type: Skin, All Cancers
Research Area: Basic Immunology
Richard W. Baker, PhD

Dr. Baker seeks to understand the molecular mechanism of how large protein assemblies actively rearrange local areas of chromatin, acting as keystone regulators of gene expression. He focuses on the SWI/SNF family of proteins. Recent genomic studies have shown that nearly 20% of all tumors contain a mutation in SWI/SNF genes. Notably, these mutations frequently result in with aberrant or uncontrolled SWI/SNF activity, suggesting that they could be viable drug targets. He is utilizing novel microscopy techniques to probe the mechanism of SWI/SNF-mediated chromatin remodeling and determine the effects of oncogenic mutations on this reaction. Understanding their mechanism of action is a key step towards developing new therapeutics.

Project title: "Understanding the mechanism of SWI/SNF-mediated chromatin remodeling and its misregulation in cancer"
Institution: University of California, San Diego
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Andres E. Leschziner, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Structural Biology
Ryan D. Baldridge, PhD

The goal of this research is to increase our understanding of the integral membrane protein quality control systems. These systems are involved in regulation of proteins in different cellular organelles. One of these systems, called endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation (ERAD), plays a central role in many cancer processes by regulating the levels of proteins involved in tumor growth and metastasis. A common feature of all types of cancer is survival during unfavorable conditions that would trigger apoptosis in normal cells. In many cases, the rapid growth rates of cancer cells can generate environments triggering cellular stress. The ERAD system is upregulated as a cellular response to mitigate stress by removing unnecessary proteins from cells. Despite the significance in human physiology, the mechanistic aspects of the integral membrane protein quality control systems (including ERAD) are poorly understood. Dr. Baldridge aims to gain an improved understanding of ERAD mechanisms, which may lead to more effective cancer therapies in the future.

Project title: "Investigating the mechanism of retro-translocation by ERAD"
Institution: University of Michigan
Award Program: Dale Frey Scientist
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Biochemistry
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
Named Award: Fraternal Order of Eagles Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Tom A. Rapoport, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Biochemistry
Sudeep Banjade, PhD

Dr. Banjade studies how cellular membranes are remodeled. The ESCRT family of proteins (endosomal sorting complexes required for transport) regulate this remodeling process; misregulation has been found to be involved in many cancers. He aims to understand the specific roles of the ESCRT-III proteins for polymer remodeling and membrane deformation, using biochemical, biophysical and genetic approaches.

Project title: "Division of labor in ESCRT-III proteins during polymer assembly and membrane remodeling"
Institution: Cornell University
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Scott Emr, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Biophysics
Liron Bar-Peled, PhD

Dr. Bar-Peled studies how cancer cells adapt to stress environments, focusing on oxidative stress.  His research focuses on understanding how cells sense and respond to specific changes in their environment by activating singling pathways that lead to uncontrolled growth.  He recently studied a particular pathway in non-small cell lung cancer and identified a “druggable” protein that could be targeted with small molecules and disrupt this uncontrolled growth. He plans to pursue this specific target and use the same strategy for identifying druggable pathways in other cancers that currently lack effective therapies.

Project title: "Identification of cysteine liabilities in NRF2-driven cancers"
Institution: Massachusetts General Hospital
Award Program: Dale Frey Scientist
Cancer Type: Lung, All Cancers
Research Area: Chemical Biology
Lacy J. Barton, PhD

Dr. Barton investigates the regulation of cell migration. Specifically, she aims to understand how spatial information is generated to guide migrating cells and how cell migration is terminated when the target tissue is reached. To gain insights into these processes, she is studying migration of Drosophila germ cells to the gonad during embryogenesis as a model system. Because many features of Drosophila germ cell migration are similar to tumor cell migration, novel processes discovered with this model system will shed light on the mechanisms of metastasis.

Project title: "Mechanisms of directed cell migration in a complex in vivo environment"
Institution: New York University School of Medicine
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Ruth Lehmann, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
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 phosphoprotein signaling analysis of oncogenic progression in leukemia"
Institution: Stanford University
Award Program: Dale Frey Scientist
Cancer Type: Blood, All Cancers
Research Area: Proteomics
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