Fall and Winter Happenings at Gerstner Sloan Kettering

Team GSK Raises Money for Rare Cancer Research

Dimiter Tassev

On Feburary 6, teams of Gerstner Sloan Kettering students and faculty joined 2,500 indoor cyclists from New York and Chicago to raise more than $2.4 million to support rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The event, Cycle for Survival, was founded in 2007 by Memorial Sloan Kettering patient Jennifer Goodman Linn who was diagnosed in 2004 with malignant gibrous histiocytoma, a type of soft tissue sarcoma.

Team GSK — students Neha Bhagwat, Lei Wei, Alex Miller, Moriah Nissan and her husband David, Cindy Puente, and Dimiter Tassev, team captain — cycled in shifts for four hours and surpassed their fundraising goal.

See Slide Show of Cycle for Survival

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Student Receives Predoctoral Traineeship Award

PhD Student Jeff Smith

Fourth-year student Jeff Smith received a Breast Cancer Research Program Predoctoral Traineeship Award from the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. This award is made based on the recipient’s talent, potential, and commitment to breast cancer research.

The focus of Jeff’s research is to gain insight into how breast cancer cells behave, especially how and why they invade and proliferate.

Project Abstract

The Rho family of small GTPases regulates many cellular processes primarily through control of the cytoskeleton. Misregulation of Rho signaling pathways can contribute to oncogenesis through effects on cell survival, proliferation, adhesion, and invasion. Rho GTPases can only interact with downstream effector molecules after activation by specific guanine exchange factors (GEFs). To identify the GEFs involved in breast cancer progression, a siRNA was performed using the highly invasive MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line. Using a modified Boyden chamber assay, the Rac GEF Tiam2 was identified as a candidate regulator of invasion through matrigel. Furthermore, Tiam2 depletion resulted in a decrease in cell proliferation. Analysis of a panel of breast cancer cell lines revealed that Tiam2 expression is elevated in cells lines that harbor Ras mutations. The importance of Tiam2 expression in human breast cancer, as well as the signaling pathways important for invasion and proliferation are under continuing investigation.

Jeff’s clinical mentor is Jacqueline Bromberg, and his disseration mentor is Alan Hall.

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The School Welcomes New Faculty

Timothy A. Chan
Human Oncology and Pathogenesis
Identification and characterization of tumor suppressors in GBM and breast cancer.

Viviane Tabar
In vivo applications of neural derivatives of pluripotent stem cells (iPS, ES); cancer stem cells in human brain tumors.

Joao Xavier
Computational Biology
Computational models and quantitative experiments of biofilm and cancer growth.

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Beyond the Lab

Third-year students Nicholas Gauthier and Jennifer Nnoli

Fostering a rich, supportive, and diverse community in which to study is high on the school’s agenda. Informal fall and winter gatherings promoted and encouraged fellowship among students.

A School Tradition — Celebrate Halloween
At Gerstner Sloan Kettering, Halloween is one of those holidays that requires a celebration. The scary, whimsical, and the funny came togther on Halloween evening to celebrate the fall holiday.

Third Annual Bowling Night
On January 14, the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Student Council held its third annual bowling night at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Live music fueled the competition as four teams went head-to-head in an all-or-nothing, two game, winner-take-all battle. As is tradition, teams were captained by members of Gerstner Sloan Kettering’s founding class. Jeff Smith’s team won this year’s night of bowling — pulling out ahead in the end.

Third Annual Ski Trip
In February, 30 students and their significant others traveled to Mount Snow, Vermont, for a weekend of skiing and bonding. Grouped by experience levels — first-time and seasoned skiers — chair-lift rides gave students the perfect venue for becoming better acquainted. All agreed that the trip was a wonderful experience — a tradition that should continue.

See Slide Show of Events

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Center for Cancer Systems Biology Receives Funding

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Computational Biology Program with Program Chair Chris Sander as lead PI, has been awarded a Center for Cancer Systems Biology grant — $14 million for five years — from the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Integrative Cancer Biology Program. In addition to the funding received by Memorial Sloan Kettering, ten other outstanding centers nationwide will share NCI’s commitment to this area of research. These centers will not only explore new insights in the areas of cancer systems biology, but will generate computational and mathematical models for application in the lab and the clinic. The project’s co-investigators and clinical consultants include Gerstner Sloan Kettering faculty Grégoire Altan-Bonnet, Christina Leslie, Franziska Michor, Joao Xavier, Marcel van den Brink, Johanna Joyce, and Jacqueline Bromberg.

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