Human Oncology & Pathogenesis Program: Fellows

Year-Two Fellows

Pictured: Olga GuryanovaOlga Guryanova, PhD

Despite significant advances in personalized medicine and targeted cancer therapies, most cancer treatments ultimately fail due to the development of therapeutic resistance. Olga Guryanova is a translational cancer researcher who aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of drug resistance in cancer using molecular and cell biology approaches combined with genomic and transcriptomic analyses and genetic mouse modeling. Before coming to Memorial Sloan Kettering, she identified novel signaling nodes maintaining cancer stem cell properties in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer, and studied alternative splicing in oxidative-stress-induced actin cytoskeleton rearrangements and cell migration. In the lab of Ross Levine, Dr. Guryanova is applying her expertise to novel mutations in epigenetic modifiers in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) to develop new treatment strategies that will improve outcomes for leukemia patients. Her fellowship is made possible due to the generous contribution of the Junming Le Foundation.

Pictured: Sevin TurcanSevin Turcan, PhD

Sevin Turcan is a second-year fellow on the T32 grant. She received her BS in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University prior to earning a PhD from Tufts University. During her thesis, she used genome-wide approaches to study the role of the efferent system in postnatal cochlear development in mice. In 2010, she joined Timothy Chan’s lab as a postdoctoral research fellow and has since been studying the epigenetic changes that occur in cancers. Specifically, she is working to understand the role of IDH mutations in driving the epigenetic changes in lower-grade gliomas. A deeper understanding of mutant IDH-induced changes will allow us to design new treatment options for glioma patients.

Year-One Fellows

Owen Clark, PhD

Owen Clark

Mutations in the gene IDH1 occur in up to 70 percent of cases of glioma, the most common and deadly primary brain tumor. Currently little is known regarding if and how the mutant IDH1 protein can transform normal brain cells into glioma cells, and whether a distinct cell type is particularly susceptible to its effects. Dr. Clark’s project aims to interrogate the early effects on IDH1 mutations by targeting the mutant protein to distinct cell compartments in the neural lineage, which have been isolated and characterized by Fiona Doetsch’s lab at Columbia University. His team will infect these cells with mutant IDH1 and examine alterations in self-renewal and cell-fate specification as well as whether these cells will be endowed with the capacity to form tumors in mice. They will also conduct a wider investigation into the origin of IDH1-mutant glioma by generating cells that express the mutant protein along with other commonly co-occurring genetic lesions. These experiments are expected to shed light on how and why IDH1 mutations interact with other genetic events to form tumors in specific cell types. This research could potentially provide the basis for novel therapies targeted toward this deadly disease.

Elizabeth Perry, PhD

Elizabeth Perry

Elizabeth Perry is a postdoctoral fellow interested in cancer as a process of somatic evolution. She received her PhD from the Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Oregon in 2013. There, she used a model system of bacteria and bacteriophage to understand the ecological and genetic mechanisms that influence rates and repeatability of genomic evolution. In Richard White's lab, Dr. Perry is applying ecological and evolutionary theory to understand the evolution of somatic mosaicism, metastasis, and drug resistance in a zebrafish model of melanoma.

Pictured: Weiyi ToyWeiyi Toy, PhD

The goal of Weiyi Toy’s research is to understand how ESR1 mutations mediate hormone resistance and use this understanding to develop improved pharmacologic strategies for the treatment of hormone refractory breast cancer. Dr. Toy’s lab recently identified several ligand-binding domain mutations in the estrogen receptor (ER) that are constitutively active and have the ability to activate ER-dependent transcription and proliferation in the absence of hormone. They also have data that suggest that this hormone-independent active state promotes resistance to estrogen-depriving therapies. The lab aims to examine the biological effects of mutant receptors and, more importantly, the testing of newer ER antagonists and drug combinations in their models. They expect this will allow them to identify drugs that can potently inhibit these mutant receptors and ultimately be beneficial to patients with hormone-resistant cancers. Dr. Toy’s fellowship is made possible due to the generous contribution of First Eagle Investment Management.

Pictured: Jianing XuJianing Xu, PhD

As a research fellow in James Hsieh’s lab, Jianing Xu has been interested in cancer study for a long time. Currently Dr. Xu is studying how kidney cancers occur, specifically focusing on the function of most frequently mutated genes in clear cell renal cell carcinoma – the most common subtype of kidney cancer. The goal is to identify the biomarkers for diagnostics and personalized treatment of kidney cancer. He works closely with scientists, physicians, and surgeons, and with the goal that it will lead to more opportunities to translate those projects into approaches that will ultimately cure disease. Dr. Xu’s fellowship is made possible due to the generous contribution of the Junming Le Foundation.

Alumni

Charles David, PhD

Brooke Sylvester, PhD