By Colleen Sullivan
The first step in creating cutting-edge cancer treatments for patients is basic research—scientific investigation that uncovers biology’s fundamental principles and helps us understand how the cells and molecules in our bodies work. Such research, also known as “discovery science,” is a key strategic priority of The Dana-Farber Campaign because it fosters innovative studies that yield new clues about cancer—clues that can open entirely new avenues for exploration and may ultimately lead to revolutionary new treatments. For example:
Rizwan Haq, MD, PhD, and his colleagues have developed nine melanoma models, derived by gene editing melanocytes (precursors to melanoma) in order to study the biological pathways that drive melanoma metastasis. Haq’s studies, which explore the dependencies of metastasis, could lead to new therapeutic strategies to prevent the metastatic spread of melanoma.
Sarah Johnstone, MD, PhD, is investigating the mechanism by which two proteins, CTCF and BORIS, which are often mutated in ovarian cancers, reshape genome structure to facilitate tumor-promoting gene activity. Johnstone’s research aims to uncover vulnerabilities in tumor cells harboring these protein mutations, in order to identify therapeutic pathways that can be targeted in intractable ovarian cancers.
Shangming Tang, PhD, is studying a catastrophic mutational event called chromothripsis that occurs in about 30% of human cancers and can lead to drug resistance and relapse. Tang is investigating the role of the MPG pathway in chromothripsis and how it functions in normal cells to protect against genome instability. Learning more about how this process occurs could lay the groundwork for new cancer therapies.
The Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research was founded by Institute Trustees Delores Barr Weaver and J. Wayne Weaver in honor of Delores’ mother, solely to advance basic, discovery science at Dana-Farber. One hundred percent of the funds raised by the dedicated runners of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge have provided more than $122 million in vital support for the program since 1990.