All Cancers

Current Projects
Yuan Gao, PhD

Dr. Gao aims to understand the mechanism that proteins inside the cell use to enter peroxisomes. Peroxisomes are organelles that play important roles in fatty acid degradation, ether-phospholipid biosynthesis, and breakdown of hydrogen peroxide. Mutations in genes that cause faulty peroxisome function, particularly those that affect matrix protein import, result in a variety of severe inherited human diseases referred to as peroxisome biogenesis disorders (PBD). Cancer cell lines also strongly depend on peroxisomes for survival, which suggests that pharmacologic targeting of peroxisomes could be a novel cancer therapy. Dr. Gao is using a combination of biochemical and biophysical approaches to investigate the peroxisomal import machinery with the goal of deciphering its mechanism and developing better cancer therapies.

Project title: "Mechanism of protein import into peroxisomes"
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Tom A. Rapoport, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
Eric E. Gardner, PharmD, PhD

Dr. Gardner is studying acquired resistance to targeted therapies in lung cancer. Many targeted therapies used in cancer treatment are capable of controlling disease for a period of time, but in most cases, the disease finds a way to resist or adapt. For instance, some patients treated with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors for adenocarcinoma develop resistance to this class of drugs when their cancer transforms to small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Dr. Gardner is investigating this process using both human and mouse models of lung cancer to identify therapeutic approaches that may treat, prevent, or reverse this type of acquired resistance.

Project title: "Interrogating lung adenocarcinoma transformation to small cell lung cancer at single cell resolution"
Institution: Weill Cornell Medicine
Named Award: Kenneth G. and Elaine A. Langone Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Harold E. Varmus, MD
Cancer Type: Lung, All Cancers
Research Area: Carcinogenesis
Ivana Gasic, Dr.Sc.

Dr. Gasic aims to elucidate the “microtubule integrity response,” mechanisms that monitor the health of microtubules in cell division under normal physiological conditions and in cancer. Microtubules are frequent chemotherapy targets in treatment of various cancers, such as leukemia, lymphomas, melanoma, lung, ovarian, and breast cancer. Microtubule-targeting chemotherapeutics are believed to kill cancer cells through mitotic arrest. There is, however, growing evidence that they impact non-dividing “interphase” cells as well; this mechanism remains largely unexplored. She seeks to explore the microtubule integrity response, which may reveal how microtubule poisons kill non-dividing cancer cells, and help design better anti-cancer therapies.

Project title: "Molecular elucidation of the interphase microtubule integrity response (MIR)"
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Named Award: Merck Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Timothy Mitchison, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
Stephanie Gates, PhD

Dr. Gates is focusing on the 26S proteasome, part of the Ubiquitin Proteasome System (UPS), which is important for protein quality control and cellular regulation. The proteasome degrades aggregated and misfolded proteins, which are tagged with a ubiquitin molecule for disposal in normal cells. Proteasomes are also critical in helping cancer cells survive by disposing of malfunctioning proteins, so inhibiting the proteasomal degradation mechanism is an effective cancer drug target. Dr. Gates is investigating how the cell's disposal machinery recognizes ubiquitin, which may help in designing proteasome inhibitors for cancer treatment.

Project title: "Decoding the ubiquitin receptor recognition mechanism of the 26S proteasome"
Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Andreas Martin, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Biochemistry
Daniel H. Goldman, PhD

Dr. Goldman is using single-molecule imaging to monitor the quality control process for messenger RNA (mRNA) in real time in living cells. The ribosome decodes genetic information encoded in mRNA and synthesizes protein. In some cases, faulty mRNAs are produced—caused either by genetic mutations, errors in transcription or pathological states such as cancer. When the ribosome encounters a problematic mRNA, quality control pathways in the cell intervene to remove the ribosome from the mRNA, aborting translation. Although some basic aspects of these pathways are known, many details are not understood, including the overall timing, ordering of events and roles of multiple protein factors. Dr. Goldman’s studies will elucidate how cells deal with faulty mRNAs produced under both normal and pathological conditions.

Project title: "Investigating translation-mediated quality control using live-cell single-mRNA imaging"
Institution: The Johns Hopkins University
Named Award: Merck Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Rachel Green, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Biochemistry
Yusong R. Guo, PhD

Dr. Guo focuses on the Piezo channel, a molecular machine on the cell membrane that converts mechanical stimuli on the outside of the cell into electric signals inside the cell. Piezo channels are important in human cells to sense touch, maintain balance, and regulate blood pressure. High expression of Piezo channels can promote various types of cancer, including breast and gastric. By studying its atomic structure, she aims to determine the mechanism of how the Piezo channel is regulated, which may provide the framework for novel anti-cancer therapies.

Project title: "Structural and mechanistic characterization of mechanosensitive Piezo channels"
Institution: The Rockefeller University
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Roderick MacKinnon, MD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Structural Biology
Marsha M. Hirschi, PhD

Dr. Hirschi is creating a tool to investigate specific glutamate receptor subpopulations and elucidate their role in cancer mechanisms. Glutamate receptors on neurons are involved with learning and memory in a time- and tissue-specific manner and abnormal function can lead to cancer. Detailed understanding of how glutamate receptors work may provide insight into new therapies for cancers ranging from gliomas to peripheral malignancies, such as pancreatic cancer.

Project title: "Molecular engineering of an optically controlled glutamate receptor"
Institution: The Scripps Research Institute
Named Award: Dennis and Marsha Dammerman Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Gabriel C. Lander, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Biophysics
Christina L. Hueschen, PhD

Dr. Hueschen studies the motility of Apicomplexan parasites, which cause malaria, foodborne illness (toxoplasmosis) and infections in immunocompromised cancer patients. These parasites move through the human body using a mechanism called "gliding" to migrate over host cells and through the surrounding extracellular matrix. Dr. Hueschen's goal is to understand how molecules inside the parasite are organized, coordinated and regulated to produce forces that direct movement. This research has the potential to aid in the development of therapies to prevent opportunistic infections.

Project title: "Molecular basis and regulation of apicomplexan parasite motility"
Institution: Stanford University
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Alex Dunn, PhD
Cancer Type: Gastric, Brain, Colorectal, All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
Victoria Hung, PhD

Dr. Hung focuses on a central question in cell biology: how gene expression is spatially and temporally regulated to give rise to cell types and functions. Historically, the ribosome has been viewed as a molecular machine of invariant composition that passively and constitutively translates mRNA to protein. She is studying how phosphorylation of ribosomal components may endow ribosomes with specificity for certain transcripts and unique cellular functions. This work will also provide insight into how ribosome-mediated gene expression may play a role in cellular transformation for many different cancers, and in particular, lymphomagenesis.

Project title: "Defining the post-translational landscape of ribosomes in control of gene regulation and cell fate"
Institution: Stanford University
Named Award: Fraternal Order of Eagles Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Maria Barna, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: RNA (RNA processing, miRNA and piRNA mechanisms, enzymatic RNAs, etc.)
Jeffrey A. Hussmann, PhD

Dr. Hussmann is studying how translation is regulated in healthy cells and how this regulation goes awry in disease. Cells control protein abundance by modulating how frequently messenger RNAs are translated by ribosomes, but the mechanisms that determine how densely ribosomes are packed onto each individual transcript are poorly understood. He is developing experimental approaches to produce transcriptome‐wide single‐molecule measurements of ribosome density in order to advance this understanding. These approaches will provide insights into the the key role that this process plays in the development and progression of many cancers.

Project title: "Genome-wide measurement of ribosome spacing on individual transcripts"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Named Award: Rebecca Ridley Kry Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Carol Gross, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Genomics
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