All Cancers

Current Projects
Kelsie A. Eichel, PhD

Dr. Eichel is studying how proteins travel across cellular membranes and are sorted to different areas of the cell. This highly regulated mechanism generates distinct membrane domains of the cell with unique protein compositions, which are essential for cellular functions. Dr. Eichel hopes to understand how membrane trafficking plays a role in cancer biology, including loss of cellular polarization, uncontrolled cell growth, invasion, and metastasis.

Project title: Mechanisms of polarized membrane protein trafficking
Institution: Stanford University
Named Award: Robert A. Swanson Family Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Kang Shen, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
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.

Project title: "Probing how kinetochore-fibers anchor to spindles to robustly and accurately segregate chromosomes"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Sophie Dumont, PhD
Cancer Type: Breast, All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
Mingye Feng, PhD

The understanding of the mechanisms by which specific types of immune cells detect and attack tumor cells has enabled the development of promising cancer immunotherapies. Recently, researchers have discovered the important roles of immune cells called macrophages in the surveillance and elimination of tumor cells. Dr. Feng focuses on understanding how cancer cells protect themselves and evade macrophages, and how macrophages recognize cancer cells and target them for elimination. He hopes to develop novel anti-cancer therapies by blocking cancer cells’ self-protection ability to enable their elimination by macrophages. These studies can be applied to all different types of cancers.

Project title: "Macrophage-mediated immunosurveillance in metastasis"
Institution: City of Hope
Award Program: Dale Frey Scientist
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
Lydia Finley, PhD

Cancer cells frequently rewire intracellular metabolic pathways in order to support rapid proliferation. In addition to serving as building blocks for cell growth, metabolites also serve as critical substrates for enzymes that control gene expression programs. Changes in intracellular metabolites can therefore have a profound effect on cellular functions including survival, growth and differentiation. As the Jack Sorrell Fellow of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, Dr. Finley found that specific intracellular metabolites promote the self-renewal of embryonic stem cells. These results demonstrate that metabolites can influence gene expression programs and control cell identity. As a Dale F. Frey Breakthrough Scientist, she will continue to investigate how metabolites regulate cell fate decisions in stem cells and cancer cells. Her research will interrogate how cells rewire metabolic pathways to support growth and how these metabolic changes influence cellular programs that control self-renewal and differentiation. These studies will shed light on how cancer cells fuel their growth and how tumor-associated metabolic alterations contribute to the establishment of the stem cell-like state that characterizes the most malignant tumors.

Project title: "Metabolic regulation of cell fate decisions"
Institution: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Named Award: William Raveis Charitable Fund Scientist
Award Program: Dale Frey Scientist
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Stem Cell Biology
Eric S. Fischer, PhD

Cancer therapies that target a specific gene product (targeted therapies), for example the oncogenic BCR-ABL by Gleevec, are now a very successful paradigm in cancer treatment. However, many known cancer-driving proteins are recalcitrant to the development of traditional small molecule inhibitors. In recent years, novel pharmacologic strategies have been proposed and developed to tackle this pervasive problem in drug development. One such novel pharmacologic modality is called “degraders,” small molecules that hijack the cellular waste disposal system – the ubiquitin proteasome system – to remove a cancer-causing protein from the cell. While the concept has shown incredible success in the case of lenalidomide (Revlimid) for the treatment for multiple myeloma, our understanding of the underlying mechanism is insufficient to broadly apply degraders to cancer treatment. Dr. Fischer’s research will expand our molecular understanding for the mechanism of action of degraders, and further develop a novel class of small molecule degraders to target oncogenic gene products. He anticipates that this work will contribute to the development of novel medicines for many cancers.

Project title: "Novel mechanisms for small molecule induced targeted degradation of RRM family proteins"
Institution: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Award Program: Innovator
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Structural 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 studies the process of protein synthesis, which is often misregulated in cancer, causing uncontrolled cell growth and proliferation. The balance of protein production in healthy cells is maintained in part by RNA-binding proteins, which modulate the efficiency of mRNA translation by the ribosome. However, the mechanisms underlying such regulation are not well understood. He is combining high-throughput sequencing technologies with single-molecule imaging in living cells to elucidate the mechanisms by which RNA-binding proteins regulate protein synthesis.

Project title: "Elucidating the role of the exon junction complex in regulating translation of spliced mRNA"
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
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