What We Do
The Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund (YSCRF) provides support to young investigators at the Icahn School of Medicine who are researching new ways to prevent, diagnose, and/or treat cancer. Some of the YSCRF investigators focus on specific forms of cancer while others conduct research on more general mechanisms involved in various types of cancer. Below is a more detailed description of each YSCR investigator’s research.
Emily Bernstein, PhD
Dr. Bernstein’s focus is on epigenetic regulation of gene expression in multiple biological pathways including cancer (with a focus on melanoma) and stem cell biology. This includes various mechanisms that alter the chromatin template, including histone modifications, histone variants and their dedicated chaperones, and non-coding RNAs. Her laboratory studies epigenetic mechanisms underlying cancer initiation and progression. Her goal is to identify chromatin regulators that can be targeted therapeutically for melanoma patients.
Jerry E. Chipuk, PhD
Cancer occurs when cells acquire changes that convert them from a normal to malignant state. Apoptosis is a program of cellular suicide that eliminates damaged cells to prevent cancer; yet the body also turns on this program following chemotherapy and radiation treatments in order to kill cancer cells. Therefore, it is important to investigate the pathways that control apoptosis to understand how cancer occurs and should be treated. Dr. Chipuk’s laboratory studies how and when a cell turns on apoptosis to prevent cancer, and in response to chemotherapy.
Analisa DiFeo, PhD:
The objective of Dr. DiFeo’s research is to develop a novel strategy to predict an ovarian cancer patient’s response to chemotherapy based on the expression profile of a new class of molecules called microRNA (miRNA) and identify potential miRNA targets in order to overcome chemoresistance. Over the last decade, accumulating evidence shows that miRNAs play a critical role in the regulation of gene and protein expression in human disease, with several hundreds of known miRNAs capable of simultaneously modulating the expression of approximately one third of the genome. Given their prevalence and complex nature, miRNAs represent an attractive candidate to target and thereby prevent the many processes that may lead to ovarian cancer chemoresistance. Our proposed research, if successful, will help women who are newly diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer in two major ways:
- Genetic profiling of key miRNAs associated with chemoresistance validated in our research will help predict patients’ response to clinically available first-line agents and thus provide guidance for the selection of tailored chemotherapeutic regimens in order to decrease the incidence of recurrence;
- Adjuvant therapy using drugs targeting resistance-associated miRNA will enhance the sensitivity of tumor response to first-line agents and ultimately improve survival.
Hanna Y. Irie, MD, PhD
Dr. Irie’s laboratory focuses on identifying novel genes and signaling pathways regulating survival and metastases of breast cancer cells, with the goal of evaluating them as therapeutic targets tailored for patients with specific breast cancer subtypes. The laboratory has utilized both candidate and screen-based approaches to identify and characterize these critical genes. In large-scale siRNA screens, the lab has identified several candidate molecules, some of which have never been previously implicated in tumor cell survival. Many of these candidate genes are highly expressed in specific subtypes of breast cancer, such as Her2+ and triple negative/basal tumors, which pose therapeutic challenges in the clinic. Some candidates, such as PTK6, are critical for the survival of cancer cells without affecting normal breast cells, potentially creating an optimal therapeutic window. In addition to understanding the mechanisms by which these candidate genes regulate tumor cell survival, Dr. Irie and her team are interested in identifying the patient populations who may specifically benefit from targeted inhibition of these candidate molecules.
Goutham Narla, MD, PhD:
Dr. Narla’s laboratory researches the role of the KLF6 gene family in human cancer. His lab has identified the KLF6 gene as a tumor suppressor gene inactivated in human cancer through a number of functional mechanisms including loss of heterozygosity (LOH), somatic mutation, promoter hypermethylation, and alternative splicing into an oncogenic splice variant KLF6-SV1. Major projects currently ongoing in his laboratory are:
- Understanding the molecular mechanisms and pathways regulated by KLF6 and KLF6-SV1 in breast, lung, prostate, and pancreatic cancer
- Expression pattern of the KLF6 gene family as a potential prognostic marker in several major cancers
- The role of the KLF6 gene family in the regulation of response to both traditional cytotoxic chemotherapy and newer targeted molecular agents
- Mouse models of the KLF6 gene family to further define its role in cancer development and progression
For more information, please contact Maura Lynch, Director of Development, Tisch Cancer Institute
Office of Development
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, New York 10029-6574
Donate online to Mount Sinai’s Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund (YSCRF), which enables young, motivated, and bright scientists to pursue innovative cancer research.