All Cancers

Current Projects
Alesia N. McKeown, PhD

Dr. McKeown [HHMI Fellow] studies the innate immune system and its key role in suppressing many types of cancers. It is unclear why some cancers respond well to immunity-based therapies while others escape treatment and continue to spread. Her research is aimed at characterizing a new layer of host immunity composed of retrogenes of essential host proteins. She believes that these retrogenes act to inhibit viral infection by acting as nonfunctional “decoys” of host proteins required for the viral life cycle. By investigating how these decoys exert their antiviral function, she hopes to better understand the landscape of host immunity and utilize these new genes as potential therapeutics to halt similar pathways involved in cancer progression.

Project title: "Novel roles for retrogenes in host immunity"
Institution: University of Utah School of Medicine
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Nels Elde, PhD, and Cedric Feschotte, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Evolution
Kara L. McKinley, PhD

Dr. McKinley studies how cells change their shape and behavior to build the complex structures that comprise mammalian organs. Cellular behaviors that occur during embryonic development are frequently co-opted by cancer cells during tumorigenesis and metastasis. Her goal is to understand how the machinery within cells drives changes in tissue architecture in a developmental context, generating new insights into how these cellular processes are corrupted during cancer progression.

Project title: "Mechanisms and functions of cellular rearrangements in epithelia"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Ronald D. Vale, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
Wayne O. Miles, PhD

Inactivation of the Retinoblastoma 1 (RB) tumor-suppressor gene is a hallmark of cancer. Loss of RB function results in the transcription of genes required for cell growth but surprisingly also cell death. Profiling of RB-deficient cells showed that these cell death mRNAs are induced but not made into protein. Dr. Miles aims to identify the factors that block the production of cell death proteins and determine which of these factors prevent RB-lacking cancer cells from dying. As the RB pathway is disabled in almost all tumors, his research will provide insights into the mechanisms supporting cancer cell survival and as well as those preventing the death of cancer cells.

Project title: "Maximizing pro-apoptotic protein levels"
Institution: The Ohio State University
Award Program: Innovator
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: RNA (RNA processing, miRNA and piRNA mechanisms, enzymatic RNAs, etc.)
Matthew P. Miller, PhD

Dr. Miller [HHMI Fellow] is investigating how cells ensure the correct partitioning of genetic material during cell division. Errors in this process occur in nearly all tumor cells and are the leading cause of miscarriages and congenital birth defects in humans. He is using novel techniques to isolate and examine the physical binding properties of the molecules that mediate this process. The goal of his work is to determine the molecular mechanisms that direct genome partitioning during cell division and understand how this process occurs with a high level of fidelity in normal cells, yet is error-prone during tumorigenesis.

Project title: "Regulation of kinetochore assembly"
Institution: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Susan Biggins, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology
Raymond E. Moellering, PhD

Dr. Moellering is interested in understanding the link between alteration of metabolic pathways and corresponding protein modifications that occur in cancer cells. In addition, he is investigating whether cancer cells use small molecule signaling, known as quorum-sensing, to communicate and thus control tumor initiation, growth and metastasis. His goal is to provide insights into many aspects of tumor progression and to potentially identify new opportunities for therapeutic intervention. 

Project title: "Characterization of novel pathogenic pathways in cancer: do tumor cells use quorum-sensing molecules to support malignancy?"
Institution: The University of Chicago
Award Program: Dale Frey Scientist
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Chemical Biology
Antoine Molaro, PhD

Dr. Molaro studies how an ancient "evolutionary arms race" between Krab-Zinc-Finger genes (KZNFs) and DNA sequence elements called retrotransposons has shaped transcriptional networks of stem cells and pluripotency. Because many cancers dedifferentiate to a stem cell-like state, refined knowledge about how KZNFs act to finely modulate transcriptional control may prove essential for the development of new cancer drugs. 

Project title: "Evolutionary and functional consequences of genetic conflicts between KRAB-Zinc-Fingers and endogenous retroviruses in primate genomes"
Institution: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Harmit S. Malik, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Evolution
Andrew C. Murley, PhD

Dr. Murley is studying how the rapid growth of cancer cells exerts damaging stress on their subcellular compartments. In many cells, chronic stress of one of these compartments, called the endoplasmic reticulum, leads to cell death, but many types of cancer cells are able to avoid this fate. Recent findings point to the existence of secreted molecules released by cells when they are subjected to this stress. These molecules, whose identities are still unknown, can activate processes in neighboring cells, or in the secreting cells themselves, which protect them from this chronic stress. His goal is to identify these molecules and explore their role in cancer cell survival and other normal bodily functions. 

Project title: "Cell non-autonomous communication of ER stress resistance"
Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Andrew G. Dillin, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Aging
Duy P. Nguyen, PhD

Dr. Nguyen [Connie and Bob Lurie Fellow] is analyzing the bacterial enzyme Cas9, which has emerged to be a versatile tool to manipulate the genome. He aims to develop an efficient method for selective delivery to and activation of Cas9 in cancer cells. In addition, the proposed research will explore the possibility of genome manipulation to create genetic models for understanding the mechanistic role of programmed cell death. The developed methodology will hopefully set the foundation for rapidly creating genetic models to interrogate signaling pathways implicated in cancer and to investigate novel drug screening approaches that aim to identify new drug targets for cancer treatment.

Project title: "Genome editing via an engineered RNA-guided nuclease to create cancer genetic models"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Named Award: Connie and Bob Lurie Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): James A. Wells, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Chemical Biology
Vu Quang Nguyen, PhD

Dr. Nguyen uses advanced fluorescence microscopy to visualize how defined structural changes in chromatin, the condensed form of DNA, affect its association with factors required for transcription initiation-an early and essential step in gene expression. Architectural defects in chromatin are found in many cancers and have been linked to aberrant patterns of gene expression. The results of this research will be important in characterizing the connection between chromatin organization and cancer-associated gene misregulation.

Project title: "Role of chromatin organization in dynamics of transcription initiation"
Institution: Johns Hopkins University
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Carl Wu, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Chromatin Biology
Thomas M. Norman, PhD

Dr. Norman is investigating the role that “epigenetic” differences play in cancer cells’ ability to develop drug resistance. These epigenetic changes result in altered gene expression. He will use a new technique called CRISPRi to systematically tune the expression of different parts of the genome and measure their effect on drug resistance. He hopes that these studies will identify new avenues for reducing resistance and expand our knowledge of the role epigenetic factors play in leukemia and other cancers.

Project title: "Identifying the stochastic determinants of drug resistance"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Jonathan S. Weissman, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Systems Biology
  • You can support our innovative researchers.