First Recipients of Sackler Families Fund for Collaborative Cancer Research Announced

The first recipients of the Sackler Families Fund for Collaborative Cancer Research awards have been selected from a strong pool of applicants. Grace Gill, PhD, a member of the Graduate Programs in Genetics and Cell, Molecular & Developmental Biology, her Genetics PhD student Sohini Mazumdar and Sackler faculty member Charlotte Kuperwasser, PhD received one award.  The second award recognizes Richard Van Etten, MD, PhD, a member of the Cellular & Molecular Physiology (CMP), Genetics and Immunology Graduate Programs and his CMP student Mo-Ying Hsieh.

Drs Gill, Kuperwasser and Ms Mazumdar will use their award to study the molecular pathology associated with the aggressive, basal form of breast cancer.  This form of the disease has a particularly poor prognosis.  The group has developed preliminary data supporting the hypothesis that LSD1/Co/REST1, a complex that affects the expression of multiple genes, promotes aggressive breast cancer by altering the expression of genes involved in breast cell differentiation. Testing this hypothesis could reveal critical molecular circuits that promote more deadly forms of breast cancer and also identify a novel biomarker for highly aggressive forms of this disease.

Dr Van Etten and Ms Hsieh are exploring the way in which an active signaling protein called Wnt influences survival of cancer stem cells that contribute to chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).  CML is one of several hematologic malignancies associated with the BCR/ABL oncogene.  Even though new therapies ameliorate early phases of this disease and bone marrow transplant can be curative in some patients, there are no approaches to cure many individuals afflicted with this disease.  By exploring the way in which altered expression of Wnt influences cancer cell survival in these researchers hope to set the stage for a clinical trial examining the efficacy of Wnt pathway inhibitors and already established therapies to cure CML.

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