2009 Grantees

eric-sawey-x02Eric Sawey, PhD, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the laboratory of Scott Powers, PhD. In order to further develop therapy targeted specially against a particular tumor type, scientists must first identify and understand what these target are. “Our goal is to identify novel targets for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinomas, the most common form of liver cancer,” stated Dr. Sawey. To accomplish this goal, he plans to single out genes that are amplified in liver cancer patients, relative to normal liver samples. Using a mouse model, these individual genes will be screened for their role in tumor-formation. Those found to be involved with tumor growth will be examined more closely using human liver cancer cells and patient samples in order to validate the findings. Dr. Sawey stated, “We believe that using what we have learned about the human genome, combined with mouse modeling, can shed light on these potential targets.”

To view Dr. Sawey’s article in Cancer Cell, click here

tran-laboratory-x02Hien Thanh Tran, MD, PhD, The Rockefeller University in the laboratory of Sohail Tavazoie, MD, PhD.  The study of human cancer has been limited by the lack of model systems that can recapitulate the way cancers behave in people. As such, many people have used mouse cancers as a surrogate to study these cancers. Dr. Tran’s model system utilizes human cancer cells in a mouse background; it is able to recapitulate the way human cancers metastasize, and can directly study the changes in human cancer that allow them to spread. Dr. Tran stated, “We are studying a relatively new model of gene control that is mediated by small genetic elements called microRNA.” These elements are able to bind to the message made by a gene and turn them down, and in doing so, prevent the formation of the subsequent protein. Dr. Tran said, “By studying how these microRNAs are able to control genes that are involved in metastases, we hope to not only study ways to use these microRNAs as therapeutics but to also define new targets for the development of therapeutics against tumor metastases.”

xiaoxing-wang-x02Xiaoxing Wang, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the laboratory of William Hahn, MD, PhD.  Few treatment options are tailored for metastatic pancreatic cancer and scientists still lack the insights needed to guide a targeted molecular therapy. Current research just begins to explore metastatic pancreatic ductal andenocarcinoma. In order to systematically discover genes that play a causal role in this deadly disease, Dr. Wang plans to utilize a genome-wide RNA interference library that permits comprehensive analysis of gene function. Dr. Wang stated, “The combination of this powerful gene-analysis tool and experimental pancreatic cancer model will catalyze our research in identifying novel genes that are important for metastatic pancreatic cancer and guide targeted molecular therapy.”