Five teams led by Weill Cornell Medicine scientists have been awarded funding from the Starr Cancer Consortium in its 16th annual grant competition. The grants will fund research on the molecular origins and evolution of blood, bladder, breast, and colon cancers.
The Starr Cancer Consortium was established in 2006 through the philanthropy of the Starr Foundation, and includes The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medicine. The goal of the consortium is to support collaborative research at these institutions, with the potential to transform the understanding and treatment of cancers.
“Collaboration is at the heart of the Meyer Cancer Center. As we learn through studying various innovative treatment modalities, and with interdisciplinary engagement, we can see similarities between diseases and apply therapies more broadly. This award will help us move the needle on cancer diagnosis and care for the benefit of patients in our catchment area and globally,” said Dr. Jedd Wolchok, the Meyer Director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. “We are so grateful to the Starr Foundation for its generous support.”
Collaborative projects proposed by Drs. Steven Josefowicz, Dawid Nowak, Melody Zeng, Lukas Dow and Bishoy Faltas were selected for funding by a scientific review board of peers from institutions outside the consortium.
“We are grateful for the generosity of the Starr Foundation, which supports these ambitious efforts to advance cancer research and patient care,” said Dr. Hugh Hemmings, senior associate dean for research and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “We are very proud to see such strong support by the Starr Foundation this year for Weill Cornell Medicine investigators’ projects.”
Dr. Bishoy Faltas, Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology; Director of Bladder Cancer Research at the Caryl and Israel Englander Institute for Precision Medicine; and a member of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center earned his award to study “Targeting cytidine deaminase-induced chromosomal instability as a driver of metastasis in bladder cancer.”
APOBEC3 enzymes, which are produced widely in human cells, have the curious property that they induce mutations in DNA. This is at least in part to defend against infecting retroviruses, such as HIV, and cells are thought to have safety mechanisms for protecting their chromosomal DNA from these enzymes. However, Dr. Faltas and other researchers have been finding evidence in recent years that these enzymes are co-opted by some cancers, including bladder cancers, to boost their mutation rates—making it easier for them to evolve. In this project, they will explore APOBEC3s’ roles in driving bladder tumor metastasis, as well as the possibility of targeting these enzymes to prevent metastasis.
Co-Principal Investigators: Dr. Samuel Bakhoum (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) and Dr. Vivek Mittal (Weill Cornell Medicine).
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The above article was edited for space and originally appeared on the Weill Cornell Medicine Newsroom website on February 10, 2023