The National Cancer Institute has awarded more than $1.68 million across five years to UNC Lineberger’s Lindsey James, PhD, to study a gene that can control how other genes are expressed in cells, and when dysregulated, can lead to cancer.

UNC Lineberger's LIndsey James, PhD
UNC Lineberger’s Lindsey James, PhD.

James is an assistant professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and a new UNC Lineberger member. She will use the recent grant to study how to therapeutically block the function of NSD2, a gene that was found in an analysis of 1,000 pediatric cancer genomes to be one of the most frequently mutated genes in certain acute lymphoblastic leukemias in children.

In addition, NSD2 has been implicated in multiple myeloma. It has been thought to be the primary driver of a genetic translocation found in 15 to 20 percent of multiple myeloma patients.

As a regulator of how genes are expressed, NSD2 overexpression or mutation is associated with irregular activation of genes that are normally silent.

In her lab, James wants to use medicinal chemistry, chemical biology and cancer biology approaches to find novel molecules that can inhibit NSD2 function to in turn better understand NSD2 cancer biology and find potential therapeutic agents for NSD2-driven cancers.

“Our ultimate goal is to treat human cancers resulting from overexpression of a specific gene, NSD2, by developing molecules that have the unique ability to facilitate the degradation of NSD2,” James said. “As no such NSD2-targeted therapeutics exist, it is our hope that this would help to address an unmet medical need.”

Read more about some of James’ prior work here.