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The V Foundation for Cancer Research announced this week that Greg Wang, PhD, has been awarded the Martin D. Abeloff, MD, V Scholar Award. This award goes to the research project that receives the highest rating from the V Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. Wang was tied with Hongwu Zheng, PhD, of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for this honor and is the 10th V Scholar from UNC Lineberger.

The award from the V Foundation provides $200,000 over two years to fund Dr. Wang’s research into cancer epigenetics, which originated during his work in the laboratory of Dr. David Allis as a postdoctoral researcher. Allis is the discoverer of the function of histones — the proteins that enable yards of DNA to be crammed into a single cell — depends on a number of chemical tags adorning their exterior. This sophisticated chemical syntax for packaging DNA into tight little coils or unraveling it again – proposed as the “histone code” by Dr. Allis and Dr. Brian Strahl, who is a professor in the UNC department of biochemistry and biophysics — is the latest frontier for researchers bent on understanding how genetics encodes life. Tumors use changes in this “code” to alter the expression of tumor suppressor or oncogenes.

Dr. Wang’s research examines how this mechanism works in hematologic malignancies that occur in bone marrow, such as leukemia and lymphoma. His goal is to find out how changes to the “histone code” interfere with the normal modification of these proteins – leading to cancer. The proteins involved in establishing and/or changing the chemical syntax in histones are considered a promising target for drug therapies, so understanding their actions in detail is the next step in developing new treatments for these diseases.

Dr. Wang is an assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and biophysics and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Chromatin Biology & Epigenetics at the Rockefeller University in New York. He completed his PhD at the University of California at San Diego and has previously been named a C.H. Li Memorial Fund Scholar (2007), the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fellow (2008-2010), the John C. Newman Researcher of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (2008) and holds a Howard Temin ‘Pathway to Independence’ Award in Cancer Research from the National Cancer Institute (2010–now).

Past V Scholars at UNC Lineberger have gone on to highly productive scientific careers, including Angela Whitehurst, PhD, Ian Davis, MD, PhD, Pilar Blancafort, PhD, James Bear, PhD, W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, Jason Lieb, PhD, Blossom Damania, PhD, and Yi Zhang, PhD.