All Cancers

Current Projects
Darryl A. Wesener, PhD

Dr. Wesener is studying how food processing by the community of tens of trillions of microbes (microbiota) that resides in the human gut influences nutritional status. Obesity, and its associated metabolic abnormalities, is associated with higher incidence of certain cancers, notably those affecting the colon, uterus, and breast. Transplantation of intact gut microbiota from obese humans into germ-free mice leads to increased fat gain and obesity-associated metabolic abnormalities. He will employ synthetic food particles and mice colonized with human gut microbial communities to uncover biochemical functions and food ingredients that promote establishment of a beneficial microbiota that promotes leanness and metabolic health.

Project title: "Synthetic food particles for studying human gut microbiota function"
Institution: Washington University
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Microbiology
Jonathan R. Whicher, PhD


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Project title: "Structure and mechanism of the voltage-gated potassium channel hEag1"
Institution: The Rockefeller University
Named Award: GE Asset Management Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Roderick MacKinnon, MD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Structural Biology
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
Named Award: Lau/Palihapitiya Innovator
Award Program: Innovator
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Proliferation/Cell Cycle
Christopher Wilson, PhD
Project title: Development of a programmable writer and eraser of m6A RNA methylation
Institution: Harvard University
Named Award: Marion Abbe Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): David R. Liu, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: RNA (RNA processing, miRNA and piRNA mechanisms, enzymatic RNAs, etc.)
Andrew L. Wolfe, PhD

Dr. Wolfe studies KRAS, a cancer-promoting protein that is activated by mutations in most forms of cancer. Tumor cells can become “addicted” to the presence of overactive KRAS protein, such that they die when KRAS is suddenly removed. He will focus his research on an exciting new class of inhibitors that cause active KRAS to be rapidly degraded. He aims to explore the effects of depleting KRAS on cancer cells, understand the mechanism by which these novel KRAS inhibitor drugs cause the protein to be degraded, and optimize the efficacy of these drugs. Understanding which drug combinations are most effective and which patients are most likely to be helped by KRAS depletion are critical steps for improving patient outcomes. The results of this research are expected to have a major positive impact because they will a) expand our knowledge of tumors’ reliance on KRAS, and b) characterize the effects of this novel class of cancer therapeutics against active KRAS, a critical target driving many forms of cancer.

Project title: "The therapeutic potential and biological effects of targeting oncogenic KRAS"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Frank McCormick, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cancer Genetics
Jing Lin Xie, PhD

Dr. Xie focuses on uncovering mutation-independent mechanisms of drug resistance in cancer. The prevalence of drug resistance in tumors – and collateral damage to healthy tissues – have been major roadblocks to improving the efficacy of chemotherapy. While current research has been focused on identifying mutations that confer cancer drug resistance, an emerging paradigm is that mutation-independent changes in the chromatin or proteins could be a hidden force that promotes the development of drug resistance. Her goal is to identify and characterize the heritable “molecular memories” that can confer a fitness advantage during future exposure to chemotherapeutics and other stresses.


Project title: "Remembering the past: epigenetic mechanisms of cancer drug resistance"
Institution: Stanford University
Named Award: The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Daniel F. Jarosz, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Epigenetics
Yi Yin, PhD

Dr. Yin is using newly developed state-of-the-art single cell sequencing technology to examine how DNA repair mechanisms go awry and contribute to cancer initiation and progression, as well as response to chemotherapy. Cancer cells usually have characteristic loss-of-heterozygosity, copy number variation and other types of genome rearrangements. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms, genomic and cell contexts and effects from different allele variants in DNA repair genes of each individual may help guide treatment approaches for many cancer types, including breast, skin, and blood cancers.

Project title: "Global analysis of DNA break repair by single-cell sequencing"
Institution: University of Washington
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jay A. Shendure, MD, PhD
Cancer Type: Blood, Breast, Skin, All Cancers
Research Area: Chromosome and Telomere Biology
Ziyang Zhang, PhD

Dr. Zhang is developing a new form of cancer immunotherapy with improved safety and controllability. Redirecting the immune system to launch attacks on tumor cells has emerged as an extremely promising approach to fight cancer. One such strategy, named bispecific T cell engager antibody (BiTE) has shown remarkable efficacy against blood cancers, but it is also associated with severe toxicity. Using tools of synthetic organic chemistry, he aims to build a “chemical switch” that can be used to rapidly tune the activity of BiTE, thus allowing the circumvention of toxic side effects without diminishing therapeutic potential. The ultimate goal of this project is develop a cancer immunotherapy that can be safely employed at doses effective for the treatment of solid tumors.

Project title: "Controlling the activity of bispecific T cell engagers with a chemically cleavable molecular switch"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Kevan M. Shokat, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Chemical Biology
Yuxiang Zhang, PhD
Project title: Mechanisms that promote DNA double strand break clusters in brain and liver
Institution: Boston Children's Hospital
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Frederick W. Alt, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Genomics
Xiaoyu Zhang, PhD
Project title: Discovery of chemical probes that support targeted protein degradation in human cancer
Institution: The Scripps Research Institute
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Benjamin F. Cravatt, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Chemical Biology
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