All Cancers

Current Projects
Chuchu Zhang, PhD

Dr. Zhang aims to understand how the sensory organ called Area Postrema (AP) detects and generates nausea. Intense and protracted nausea and vomiting are major side effects of cancer therapy, with current anti-emetic drugs demonstrating only limited efficacy. She will use molecular and genetic approaches to disentangle the cellular diversity of the AP organ while identifying potential molecular detectors for nausea stimuli. She plans to focus on a particular group of neurons in AP that are potentially involved in nausea responses and use techniques to map and manipulate this circuit to reveal the neuronal substrates for nausea sensation in the brain. This project will advance our basic understanding of how nausea-inducing stimuli are detected and processed, and may lay the foundation for developing new treatment strategies.

Project title: "Molecular dissection of the Area Postrema and its role in nausea"
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Stephen D. Liberles, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Neuroscience
Xin Zhou, PhD

Dr. Zhou is using a creative protein engineering approach to break the “size barrier” of protein studies. Precise understanding of cancer protein structures can greatly facilitate the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of cancer biology and guide the design of new drugs. Recently, electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) rapidly emerged as a powerful tool to deliver high-resolution protein structures. However, it remains extremely difficult to be used for proteins under a certain size (100 kDa), because most small proteins lack intrinsic structural features required for accurate structure determination. A vast number of proteins, including numerous cancer-related proteins, are smaller than 100 kDa. The successful completion of her project will result in experimental tools that are useful for the entire scientific community and will help cancer biologists to study the structures of any proteins of interest.

Project title: "Engineering 'Glue' domains to enable cryo-EM study of small cancer protein structures"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Named Award: Merck Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): James A. Wells, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Chemical Biology
Boris Zinshteyn, PhD

Dr. Zinshteyn [HHMI Fellow] is using a combination of high-throughput genetic and biochemical techniques to identify the fundamental mechanisms underlying a process called nonsense-mediated decay (NMD). NMD enables cells to detect and destroy messages that are the result of potentially damaging genetic mutations. This process augments many genetic diseases and is important for cancer cells to adapt to the hostile tumor environment.

Project title: "Mechanisms of splicing-independent nonsense-mediated mRNA decay"
Institution: The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Rachel Green, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Biochemistry
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