The magazine of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Fall/Winter 2016

Karen Lindfors, loooking at a mammogram scan

T32 Scholars:
Creating breakthrough opportunities

The National Institutes of Health’s NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants (T32) provide young scientists with extensive training opportunities in basic and translational research.

Six scholars at UC Davis were awarded grants through the T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Oncogenic Signals and Chromosome Biology. They will work closely with experienced scientist mentors on research projects of their own design, and participate in monthly meetings that expose them to the richness of the wider UC Davis research community.

All projects have in common a search for a detailed understanding of cellular and molecular processes with relevance to cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention. But the studies themselves, says Wolf-Dietrich Heyer, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics who oversees the National Cancer Institute-funded program, are as diverse as the field of molecular oncology itself and represent a multiplicity of leading-edge approaches.

“The T32 program is an important cornerstone for the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center,” Heyer says. “These projects in basic cancer research — and, most importantly, the training the program provides to ensure the next generation of scientists — offer the best chance for future breakthroughs in cancer medicine.”

Ashley Rowson-Hodel | Evaluating HMA as a cancer therapeutic

Ashley Rowson-Hodel

Hexamethylene amiloride (HMA), a derivative of a commonly used diuretic to treat high blood pressure, has a surprising effect: it kills breast cancer cells without harming normal cells. Rowson-Hodel, a postdoctoral fellow, uses HMA as a tool to better understand the therapeutic susceptibilities of cancer.

Frank Appling | Biophysical analysis of DNA repair

Frank Appling

The link between mutations in the BRCA1 gene and breast cancer is well known. But why the link? Appling intends to find out. Using biophysics approaches, he is attaching tiny magnetic beads — about 1,000 times smaller than a pinhead — to individual DNA strands to study the mutation and its effects. Understanding this may be key to developing new drugs against breast cancer.

Christopher Lucchesi | Regulating p53 production in cancer cells

Christopher Lucchesi

The cellular protein known as p53 has been termed the “guardian of the genome” because of its protective functions. More than half of human cancers involve inactivation of p53. Lucchesi works to introduce a peptide into cancer cells to get p53 up and running again to fight cancer.

Michael Chen | Characterizing epigenetic factors in pediatric glioma

Michael Chen

Gliomas are brain cancers that can occur at any age, but are particularly aggressive in children. Chen works to analyze mutated genes encoding for epigenetic factors — such as histones and regulatory proteins that interact with the genome — in pediatric glioma cells, where evidence shows that important cellular pathways have gone awry.

Nucharee Yokdang | The role of LRIG1 in tumor metastasis

Nucharee Yokdang

Yokdang works to elucidate the effects of the LRIG1 gene, which encodes for a protein on cell membranes. The protein has been implicated as a negative regulator for oncogenic receptors, and its loss may contribute to a cancer’s ability to grow and metastasize. Yokdang’s earlier work found that LRIG1 expression inhibits breast cancer cell growth, migration and tumor growth in an animal model.