Sackler Family Cancer Award Recipients Announced

The recipients of the 2012-2013 Sackler Families Collaborative Cancer Biology Awards have been selected.These awards support a student stipend and provide monies to supplement research costs for one year. These awards are designed to provide support for innovative studies in cancer biology that will advance our knowledge of this disease and have the potential for translation and an eventual impact on patient care.

This year's recipients are Adam Skibinski, CMDB and MD-PhD student and Charlotte Kuperwasser, for their project ““The Role of the Transcriptional Co-activator TAZ in Mammary Gland Lineage Commitment and Breast Cancer” PhD, Advisor and Andrew Reeves, CMDB student and David Kaplan, PhD, Advisor for their project ““Regulation of Sox9 in Human Hair Follicle Stem Cells and the Implications for Sox9 Regulation in Basal Cell Carcinoma”.

Kaplan and Reeves

David Kaplan, PhD and his Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology student Andrew Reeves received a Sackler Family Collaborative Cancer Biology Research Award this year for their application “Regulation of Sox9 in Human Hair Follicle Stem Cells and the Implications for Sox9 Regulation in Basal Cell Carcinoma”. Basal cell carcinoma and other non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common forms of cancer world-wide. Although these diseases have a low mortality, the cost of treatment places them among the top five cancers in terms of health care expenditures. These tumors arise in the stem cell compartment of the hair follicle but the ways in which growth signaling is altered in these cells and leads to tumor development is poorly understood. Kaplan and Reeves are testing the idea that regulation of Sox9, a transcription factor expressed in the stem cells plays a key role in the process. They are particularly focused on the ways Wnt and Notch pathway components influence Sox9 function. Unraveling the circuits by which Sox9 and Wnt and Notch regulate these stem cells will contribute to a better understanding of how these tumors arise and may, in the long run, suggest more effective therapeutic targets.

Kuperwasser and Skibinski

Charlotte Kuperwasser, PhD and her Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology and MD-PhD student Adam Skibinski received a Sackler Family Collaborative Cancer Biology Research Award this year for their application “The Role of the Transcriptional Co-activator TAZ in Mammary Gland Lineage Commitment and Breast Cancer”. Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women and women who develop basal-like or triple-negative breast cancers fail to respond to hormone-based therapies and usually have a poor prognosis. To understand the molecular events that are important in this type of breast cancer, Skibinski used a functional transcription factor screen and identified TAZ as a potential regulator of the basal lineage compartment in the breast and has developed data supporting this idea. Kuperwasser and Skibinski now plan to probe the role of TAZ more fully using a loss-of-function mouse model and also determine how TAZ maintains basal cell differentiation state. Their findings could lead to a clearer understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control development of basal-like breast cancer, an advance that could eventually lead to better approaches to treatment for a type of breast cancer for which no targeted therapies are currently available.

Research Spotlight

Read up on the research of our featured PhD student and faculty member in our Research Spotlight.