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PhD, Pharmacology, UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill

Area of interest

The goal of my research is to gain a mechanistic understanding of the core molecular components that specify tumorigenic phenotypes at the cancer cell autonomous level. To realize this goal my laboratory employs genome wide siRNA screening to isolate gene products supporting the survival, proliferation and chemosensitivity of tumor cells. As an example, we have employed a synthetic lethal siRNA screen to identify chemosensitizer loci in non-small cell lung cancer cells. From this screen, we have identified a panel of genes with remarkable consequences on chemosensitivity that have either no previously recognized connection to tumorigenesis or strictly correlative connections{1}. This work is the cornerstone of the research in my laboratory, and we are using a combination of cell biological and biochemical approaches to define mechanistic relationships between these targets and cancer cell biology.
The primary initial focus is on a subset of targets identified that are not expressed in normal lung tissue, and instead play roles in specialized processes such as gametogenesis or neuronal migration. We hypothesize that these targets are not simply silent byproducts of aberrant gene expression programs, but are required for tumorigenesis. Since many of these genes are dispensable for normal cell function, they provide a unique entry point for targeted therapeutic approaches. Preliminary mechanistic studies have demonstrated that depletion of a subset of these genes results in genotoxic stresses such as lagging chromosomes, multipolar spindles, or centrosomal duplication errors. While the action of the targets we have identified may or may not be direct on the mitosis, their requirement for proper mitosis invites the possibility that they may comprise a unique cancer cell spindle that promotes cell survival in the presence of genetic damage. .
Traditionally we have used established tumor cell lines for screening and follow-up studies because of their suitability for genomic manipulations. Our long-term goal is translate our findings into a more clinically relevant context and membership in the Lineberger Cancer Center will be critical to this goal by providing the platform for exchange of knowledge among both basic and clinical researchers. Specifically, our ability to manipulate protein expression levels in primary tumor samples now gives us the opportunity to test our findings in established cell lines in primary tumor cell lines both in a cell culture setting as well as in xenograft systems.

Awards and Honors

1995 Academic Scholarship, Chemistry Department, Virginia Tech
1996 Fellowship, Virginia Tech Biotechnology Initiative, Dr. Saghai Maroof
1997 Graduate, Virginia Tech, Magna Cum Laude
1997 Phi Beta Kappa, Virginia Tech
1997 American Institute of Chemists Student Award
Pharmacology Training Grant, P.I. David Mangelsdorf
2003 Interrnational Philanthropic and Education Organization Scholar Award
2004 Susan G. Komen Postdoctoral Fellowship Award
2005 Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Postdoctoral Fellowship Award
2005 Member American Association for the Advancement of Science (nominated by UT-Southwestern)
2005 Advisory Board for Susan G. Komen Annual Mission Meeting
2005 Honorable Mention, UTSW Post Doctoral Poster Session
2006 Associate Member American Association of Cancer Researchers
2006 Grand Prize Winner UTSW Post Doctoral Poster Session
2007 Keystone Travel Scholarship (Awarded by W. Kaelin)
2007 Grand Prize Winnder UTSW-Cancer Center Retreat Poster Center
2007 AACR-WICR Brigid G. Leventhal Scholar in Cancer Research Award
2007 UT-Southwestern Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research

Link to Publications on Reach NC site

Find publications on Pubmed