Three faculty members honored at the President’s Recognition of Faculty Excellence event (08/18/22)
Faculty members Xiaodong Cheng, Ph.D., Francesca Cole, Ph.D., and Joya Chandra, Ph.D., (Pediatrics-Research joint faculty member with EMC) were chosen for faculty awards. Dr. Cheng for Research Excellence, Dr. Cole for Education and Mentorship Advancement, and Dr. Chandra for Prevention Outreach.
Wood Laboratory wins energy saving 2022 Freezer Challenge (08/10/2022)
Not only was the Wood Lab the winner of the 2022 Freezer Challenge (and a delicious lab lunch) from the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis, they also won the overall "Top Hospital/Clinical Laboratory Award" in the Small Lab category. They saved 110 kWh/day! Way to go everyone, especially senior research assistant and lab manager Adele Guerin! The Bedford Lab tied with the Scheet Lab (Epidemiology) for second place !
Francesca Cole, Ph.D., Oldham Award Winner (08/9/2022)
Dr. Francesca Cole received the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences 2022 D. Dudley and Judy White Oldham Faculty Award recognizing an exceptional faculty member who consistently demonstrates excellence in service and leadership at the graduate school. This is the second consecutive year a department member has been given this distinct honor. Dr. Cole has served as co-director of the GSBS graduate program in Genetics and Epigenetics for the last two years and is now director of the program. Dr. Cole also serves as the director of Trainee Transitions for the department, a role that was especially critical for the move of the department's research activities from Smithville, Texas to Houston, Texas.
Sharon Dent, Ph.D., professor and chair, appointed dean ad interim of the MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (07/08/2022) Upon the retirement of Dean Michael R. Blackburn, Ph.D., in late June, Dr. Sharon Dent will step into the role of interim dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She spent the last several months working closely with Dr. Blackburn to ensure a smooth transition of leadership both now and once a permanent dean has been selected.
Mélanie Prodhomme, Ph.D., awarded MD Anderson Odyssey Fellowship (07/06/2022)
Dr. Prodhomme, a postdoctoral fellow in the Wood Lab, whose research is focused on DNA polymerase theta, was one of a handful of scholars selected for this prestigious award that will provide both salary and research support. Her proposal, “Study of POLθ regulation by ATM in non-small cell lung cancer,” will be supported through the Kimberly Clark Foundation.
Many of our department's trainees were selected for departmental fellowships for the upcoming academic year! These include students Yang Zeng (Chen Lab), Tolkappiyan Premkumar and Melissa Frasca (Cole Lab), and Tanner Wright (Bedford Lab); and postdocs Srinivas Animireddy, Ph.D., (Bartholomew Lab), Ying-Jiun "Candy" Chen, Ph.D., (Dent Lab), Rongjie Fu, Ph.D., (Xu Lab), Ishita Rehman, Ph.D., (Bedford Lab), Jujun Zhou, Ph.D., (Cheng Lab) and Shalaka Lotlikar, Ph.D., (McBride Lab). (06/2022)
Research scientist Somnath Paul, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Sharad Awasthi, Ph.D., are serving as co-editors for a special edition of Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology on "The Role of Histone Modification in Misregulated Gene Expression and its Function in Cancer." (06/2022)
Francesca Cole, Ph.D., elected Director, Genetics & Epigenetics (G&E) Graduate Program, will serve as co-chair, GSBS Graduate Education Committee (05/2022). Dr. Francesca Cole will take over the reins of the G&E Program from Jichao Chen, Ph.D., effective July 1, 2022. She has served as the co-director of G&E for the last two years. Rachel Miller, Ph.D. at UTHealth will step into the role of co-director.
Mark Bedford, Ph.D., and Xiaodong Cheng, Ph.D., organized the Center for Cancer Epigenetics Retreat (05/2022)
The retreat featured keynote speaker Elisabeth Martinez, Ph.D. (UT Southwestern Medical Center) and included not only members of EMC, but also members of the MD Anderson Departments of Genetics, Cancer Biology, and Genomic Medicine, as well as individuals from Baylor College of Medicine, University of Houston, and Texas A&M/Institute of Biosciences and Technology. Overall, 27 department members or department-affiliated individuals gave 7 platform and 21 poster presentations.
Kevin McBride, Ph.D., member of team earning an Endeavor Award from The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research (03/10/2022)
Kevin McBride, Ph.D., Jennifer Wargo, M.D., M.M.Sc., and Tina Cascone, MD, Ph.D., of MD Anderson are collaborating with Tullia C. Bruno, Ph.D., at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Nikhil Joshi, Ph.D., and Aaron Ring, M.D., Ph.D., at the Yale University School of Medicine on a project entitled "Harnessing tertiary lymphoid structure function for improved immunotherapeutic strategies in cancer patients." This project was one of only four projects funded by the foundation, which "partners with scientists to accelerate research that will transform the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer."
Nidhi Sahni, Ph.D., named member of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (TAMEST) 2022 Protégé Class (02/19/2022) Dr. Sahni received the honor of being named to the TAMEST 2022 Protégé Class. She was nominated by TAMEST member Anil Sood, M.D., and is one of 52 talented early-career researchers recognized this year ahead of the TAMEST 2022 Annual Conference. TAMEST brings "together the state’s brightest minds in medicine, engineering, science and technology to foster collaboration, and to advance research, innovation and business in Texas."
EMC Postdocs win presentation awards at the Genetics & Epigenetics program retreat (10/23/2021)
Postdocs from the Bartholomew and Cole labs gave winning presentations during the Genetics & Epigenetics program retreat. Parijat Chakraborty, Ph.D., a postdoc in the Cole Lab, won first place for her "flash" presentation "Investigating the differential DNA repair pathway choice in juvenile and adult mammalian spermatogenesis." Srinivas Animireddy, Ph.D., a postdoc in the Bartholomew Lab, tied for second place for his oral platform presentation, "Functional association between SWI/SNF complex and MLL3/4 in the regulation of enhancer activity in mouse ES cell development."
Three EMC faculty members honored at the President's Recognition of Faculty Excellence Ceremony (10/13/2021)
Sharon Dent, Ph.D., professor and chair, and Ruth Legett Jones Distinguished Chair, recieved the John Mendelsohn Award for Faculty Leadership. The award was established in 2019 to honor Dr. Mendelsohn and celebrate his legacy at MD Anderson, the institution he led for 15 years. This award recognizes one MD Anderson faculty member who best reflects Dr. Mendelsohn’s leadership, scholarship and values. Richard Wood, Ph.D., professor and J. Ralph Meadows Chair in Carcinogenesis, received the R. Lee Clark Prize in Basic/Translational Science, given to a faculty member who demonstrates scholarship, service, and social responsibility following the model of Dr. Clark. Dr. Clark joined M. D. Anderson in 1946 and served as the institution’s first full-time director and surgeon-in-chief. The R. Lee Clark Prize was established in 2016 and is funded by the Estate of Jeanne F. Shelby. David Johnson, Ph.D., professor, was also honored during the ceremony for his commitments to Education and Mentorship Advancement.
Nidhi Sahni, Ph.D., promoted (09/01/2021) and awarded an NIH/NHGRI U01 Award (09/09/2021)
Dr. Nidhi Sahni, along with collaborators H. Singh and J. Das of the University of Pittsburgh will serve as PIs for a $4.75M NHGRI U01 award, Linking genome variation to transcriptional network dynamics in human B cells, as part of a large, new human genome initiative to explore the effects of genomic variation on phenotypes at the network level. The NHGRI “Impact of Genomic Variation on Function” consortium funded 25 awards across 30 United States research sites. Overall, the consortium is a collaboration intended to improve understanding of how genomic variation influences human health and disease. Dr. Sahni also received an early promotion from assistant to associate professor.
David Johnson, Ph.D., Oldham Award Winner (07/30/2021)
Dr. David Johnson was the recipient of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences 2021 D. Dudley and Judy White Oldham Faculty Award. This award recognizes an exceptional faculty member who consistently demonstrates excellence in service and leadership at the graduate school school.
Francesca Cole, Ph.D., named 2021 Andrew Sabin Family Fellow (07/30/2021)
Dr. Francesca Cole was one of five early-career basic and/or translational research scientists to be selected as a 2021 Andrew Sabin Family Fellow. This prestigious fellowship provides $100,000 over two years. Dr. Cole's research, centered on how recombination ensures homolog pairing in mammalian meiosis, was selected for the award following an external review of competing applications. The Sabin Fellowship was established in 2015, through the generosity of Andrew Sabin, to encourage novel, high-risk, high-impact science.
Postdocs earn awards at the 11th Annual Postdoctoral Science Symposium (07/29/2021)
Dr. Mélanie Prodhomme, postdoctoral fellow in the Wood lab, won Second Place, Basic Science for her oral presentation "EMT Transcription Factor ZEB1 Represses the Mutagenic POLθ-Mediated End-Joining Pathway in Breast Cancers," and Dr. Jie Yang, a postdoctoral fellow in the Cheng lab, won Third Place, Basic Science for her presentation “Preferential CEBP binding to T:G mismatches and increased C-to-T human somatic mutations,” both at the MD Anderson 11th Annual Postdoctoral Science Symposium (APSS), a symposium for postdocs from all Texas Medical Center institutions.
Shaobo Dai, Ph.D., wins Trainee Research Day Award (4/30/2021)
Dr. Shaobo Dai, a postdoctoral fellow in the Cheng lab, was awarded the “Ben F. Love Fellowship in Innovative Cancer Therapies.” This Endowed Fellowship recognizes his unique contributions to cancer research and his future potential for Making Cancer History®.
Sharon Dent, Ph.D., elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (4/22/2021)
Professor and chair, Dr. Sharon Dent has been elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in recognition of her pioneering work in defining the role of chromatin in cancer growth and development. She is the seventh member of MD Anderson's faculty to have been bestowed this honor.
Richard Wood, Ph.D., named winner of the 2021 Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society Award (4/28/2021)
The Award is given in recognition of his outstanding research contributions in the areas of environmental mutagenesis and genomics.
Margarida Almeida Santos, Ph.D., awarded new NIH grant (4/1/2021)
Dr. Santos received a new award from the National Cancer Institute to define the roles of coactivator-associated arginine methyltransferase 1 in B cell activation and lymphomagenesis. Michael Green, Ph.D., of the Department of Lymphoma-Myeloma, will serve as co-principal investigator. This grant will enable research that will build on her group's recent publication in Leukemia, CARM1 inhibition reduces histone acetyltransferase activity causing synthetic lethality in CREBBP/EP300-mutated lymphomas.
Unprecedented dual activity discovered for a DNA polymerase (02/11/2021)
DNA double-strand breaks are the most lethal form of DNA damage to a cell; if they are not repaired, the cell will die. DNA polymerase θ (POLQ) is an enzyme required for one form of DSB repair, theta-mediated end-joining, which relies on an overlap between very short regions of identical DNA sequence, called microhomologies, on single-stranded DNA. As these microhomologies are not usually at the very ends of the single-stranded DNA, repair requires another enzymatic activity to remove the unmatched parts of the single-stranded DNA ends. In most forms of double-strand break repairs, this trimming step requires a separate nuclease, but in an unprecedented discovery, reported in Molecular Cell, the laboratories of Dr. Rick Wood of the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis and Dr. Sylive Doublié of the Larner College of Medicine at University of Vermont have discovered that DNA polymerase θ acts not only as a polymerase, but also as an endonuclease, and that the same active site controls these dual functions. Further, the end-trimming function of POLQ is inhibited by dideoxynucleotides, suggesting that chain-terminating nucleoside analogs could be clinically useful as POLQ inhibitors. This discovery has important implications for cancer therapy development. Cancers with defects in genes such as BRCA2, XRCC6 and 53BP1, which have been implicated in numerous cancer types including breast, ovarian, and lung cancers, depend on POLQ to repair DSB. Therefore, developing treatments that target POLQ might potentiate the effects of DNA-double-strand break-inducing agents such as radiation.
Amelie Albrecht and Xuetong Shen, Ph.D., receive Dr. John J. Kopchick Research Award (09/02/2020)
Amelie Albrecht and her advisor Xuetong (Snow) Shen were selected as the recipients of the Dr. John J. Kopchick Research Award. This prestigious award will enable Amelie to continue her investigation into the roles of post-translational modification of nuclear actin. The award, made possible by a gift from Dr. John J. Kopchick and Charlene Kopchick, is given to a GSBS student and the student's advisor. It supports up to $50,000 of research expenses over a one-year period and is intended to provide pilot funding for innovative research projects in any area of biomedical science.
Nidhi Sahni, Ph.D. and Han Xu Ph.D., awarded NIH R35 Awards (09/2020)
Both Drs. Sahni and Xu were granted NIH Maximizing Investigators' Research Awards (R35). Dr. Sahni will use her award to decipher the functional consequneces of specific and combinatorial mutations in protein interaction networks, and Dr. .Xu will use his award to develop computational approaches for protein functional analysis using CRISPR screens. Dr. Sahni was also selected as one of twelve American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) NextGen Stars and presented her work during a NextGen Star spotlight session on June 24th, during the June AACR virtual meeting .
Rick Wood, Ph.D., honored with endowed chair (08/01/2020)
Dr. Rick Wood was appointed as the J. Ralph Meadows Chair in Carcinogenesis Research, effective August 1, 2020. This endowed position, established in 1993 through a generous donation from the J. Ralph Meadows estate, is a testament to Dr. Wood's contributions to the department and the institution. Dr. Wood previously held the Grady F. Saunders Distinguished Professorship for Molecular Biology, an honor he held since being recruited to the department. Endowed positions honor and reward faculty for their outstanding contributions to the department, institution, and larger academic community. At MD Anderson, the Endowed Positions and Awards Committee reviews nominations, and recommends nominees for the endowed positions to the Chief Academic Officer.
EMC Graduate students awarded for contributions to Genetics and Epigenetics Program (07/2020)
Hieu Van (Santos lab), Amelie Albrecht (X. Shen lab), and Melissa Frasca (Cole lab) were 3 of the 9 recipients of the 2020 G&E Student Service Award for their multiple contributions in leadership and/or other service.
Francesca Cole, Ph.D., elected co-leader of the Genetics and Epigenetics Graduate Program (07/01/2020)
Dr. Cole will serve as the co-director of the Genetics and Epigenetic Graduate Program, effective September 1, 2020. She will serve along with director, Jichao Chen, Ph.D., who will replace Pierre McCrea, Ph.D.
Daric Wible, Ph.D., earns research award (06/2020)
Dr. Wible, a postdoc with Shawn Bratton, received the William L. Pippen, Jr., Fellowship in Genitourinary Cancer Research in Recognition of Research Excellence for contributions to cancer research and education for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Rhea Kang, Ph.D., wins GSBS dissertation award (04/08/2020)
Dr. Kang was awarded the Alfred G. Knudson, Jr., Outstanding Dissertation Award for her 2019 dissertation: "Higher order chromosome organization and recombination dynamics of meiotic prophase I in mouse spermatocytes." The Knudson award was established by MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1997 to honor the late Dr. Knudson, a distinguished scientist and educator whose early landmark contributions to the field of genetics were made while he was associated with MD Anderson and the GSBS. Dr. Kang worked in the laboratory of Dr. Francesca Cole.
Nidhi Sahni, Ph.D., publishes in Cancer Cell (03/16/2020)
Co-coresponding authors Nidhi Sahni and Shiaw-Yih Lin (Systems Biology) published "Proteome Instability Is a Therapeutic Vulnerability in Mismatch Repair-Deficient Cancer," in which they showed that mismatch repair-deficient (dMMR) tumors that cause proteome instability also display increased immunogenic cell death when neddylation-mediated degradation is blocked. When this block is combined with PD1 inhibition, it has synergistic effects in mouse xenograft models of dMMR tumors, and thus might provide a new therapeutic avenue for patients with dMMR tumors that do not respond to immunotherapy alone. Press Release, PubMed
Shaobo Dai, Ph.D., wins MD Anderson award (02/27/2020)
Postdoc Shaobo Dai (Cheng Laboratory), received the MD Anderson 2020 Outstanding Research Publication Award, Basic Research for “Structural basis for the target specificity of actin histidine methyltransferase SETD3,” published in Nature Communications. PubMed.
Cheng Lab manuscript featured on the cover of Nucleic Acids Research (02/20/2020)
A collaboration with Nobel Laurate Sr. Richard J. Roberts, "Structure of HhaI endonuclease with cognate DNA at an atomic resolution of 1.0 Å," was featured as the NAR cover story.
Dale Weiss receives Laboratory Animal Technician Award (10/13/2019)
Dale Weiss, a 42-year veteran of Science Park and associate director, animal facility, was honored to receive the Laboratory Animal Technician Award for his “significant contributions to the profession of laboratory animal care” at the 70th American Association for Animal Science National Meeting held in Denver, Colo., (10/13/19)
Dedication of Carcinogenesis Research Laboratories now online
The “Carcinogenesis Research Laboratories” at University of Texas MD Anderson Science Park were dedicated on June 8, 1978. Archival footage of the event was recently digitized by volunteers and released through the Historical Resources Center of the MD Anderson Research Medical Library. This link will take you to The University of Texas at MD Anderson Science Park Dedication.
EMC Postdocs Honored by MD Anderson President (09/16/2019)
Postdocs Kylee Veazey, Ph.D. (formerly of the Santos Laboratory), Monika Zelazowska, Ph.D. (McBride Laboratory), Dhurjhoti Saha, Ph.D. (Bartholomew Laboratory), and Vrutant Shah, Ph.D. (formerly of the Barton Laboratory) were honored by MD Anderson President, Dr. Peter WT Pisters, M.D., for their invaluable contributions to MD Anderson community during National Postdoc Appreciation Week. Veazey, for "maximizing connections" by creating the inroads that led to several MD Anderson postdocs being nominated to the science and engineering honorary, Sigma Xi; Zelazowska and Saha for "promoting community" by organizing a Postdoc and Family Picnic held at Science Park; and Shah for "commitment to mentoring and teaching" for serving as a co-leader for a summer student boot camp that helped summer interns quickly learn laboratory basics.
David Johnson, Ph.D., and Kevin McBride, Ph.D., secure funding for the Summer Program in Cancer Research at Science Park (09/12/2019)
The renewal of this NIH/NCI R25 funding mechanism (CA181004) will provide funding for 12 outstanding undergraduate students to take part in our 10-week summer training program, providing them a hands-on, hypothesis-driven, project-based research experience.
Kevin McBride, Ph.D., wins grant to support a new Recombinant Antibody Production Core (RAPC) (8/21/2019).
Dr. Kevin McBride has received a Core Facility Support Award from CPRIT to support and advance his Recombinant Antibody Production Core (RAPC) at Science Park. This core will use single-cell cloning technology to purify B cells expressing antigen-specific antibodies. Immunoglobulin genes are then amplified from single cells, cloned into expression vectors, and antibodies are produced in vitro. This technology has several advantages over traditional hybridoma systems for antibody production by potentially allowing for a limitless supply of consistent-quality antibodies; the ability to reconfigure the antibody with fused epitope tages, fluorescent proteins or horseradish peroxidase; better suited for producing post-translational modification-specific antibodies as antibodies can be screened prior to cloning and production.
Richard Wood, Ph.D., and David Johnson, Ph.D. honored (8/8/2019).
Dr. Wood was recognized for Research Excellence and Dr. Johnson for Education and Mentorship Advancement during the President's Recognition of Faculty Excellence Reception.
Shaobo Dai, Ph.D., wins poster prize (7/24/2019).
Dr. Dai, a postdoctoral fellow in the Cheng Laboratory, was awarded the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics (RCSB) Poster Prize for his poster, "Structural Basis for the Target Specificity of Actin Histidine Methyltransferase SETD3," during the 2019 American Crystallographic Association Annual Meeting. His paper on the same topic has been accepted for publication in Nature Communications.
Vrutant Shah, Ph.D., presents during Grand Rounds (6/7/2019).
Postdoctoral fellow Vrutant Shah was awarded 1st Place, Basic Science for his work with former department member Dr. Michelle Barton during MD Anderson's Trainee Research Day. His first place win led to presenting his work "Trim24 as a novel model for carcinosarcoma" during the Institutional Grand Rounds. Dr. Shaw was also awarded the Lupe C. Garcia Fellowship in Cancer.
Tanner Wright, first-year student, wins competition (6/6/2019).
Tanner Wright of Mark Bedford's Laboratory won the Genetics and Epigenetics Elevator Speech Competition and represented the GSBS Program in Genetics and Epigenetics at the Graduate Student Research Day elevator speech competition.
Xiaodong Cheng, Ph.D., joins EMC (6/1/2019).
Structural biologist and biochemist Xiaodong Cheng, Ph.D., joined the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis from the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, effective June 1, 2019. Dr. Cheng came to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center from the Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, in 2016. He is an elected fellow (2012) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and serves as co-director of the Center for Cancer Epigenetics at MD Anderson. Dr. Cheng is an expert in defining the structure of proteins and protein complexes involved in the methylation and demethylation of DNA, histones and other proteins. He is keenly interested in identifying inhibitors of histone demethylases, and his laboratory uses a combination of structural and enzymatic assays for their studies.
Science Park Campus hosts Postdoctoral Association Family Picnic (03/23/2019)
The department hosted the MD Anderson Postdoctoral Fellow Family Picnic on the Science Park campus Saturday, March 23. The 114 attendees from Houston and Smithville included postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, faculty, and their families. They enjoyed a barbecue lunch and Amy’s Ice Cream. Participants played volleyball, toured campus, and hiked through the adjacent Buescher State Park.
Research Histology, Pathology, and Imaging Core image featured on journal cover (01/01/2019)
An image generated by the Science Park Research Histology, Pathology and Imaging Core’s Histology Laboratory, was used on the cover of Cancer Research, in conjunction with a paper from the Bedford Laboratory describing distinct oncogenic roles for different type 1 protein arginine methyltransferases.
Sharon Dent, Ph.D., named BioHouston WISE awardee (10/4/2018).
Sharon Dent, chair of the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis and director of the Virginia Harris Cockrell Cancer Research Center at Science Park, was unanimously selected as one of four Women in Science with Excellence for 2019. She was honored during a luncheon on January 18, 2019 at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston.
Former Departmental Faculty Member, James P. Allison, Ph.D., awarded Nobel Prize (10/1/2018).
Jim Allison, a pioneer of cancer immunotherapy and chair of Immunology at MD Anderson, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Tasuku Honjo, MD, Ph.D. of Kyoto University for their “discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.” In 1977, Allison was a new faculty member and one of the founding scientists at Science Park. In Smithville, he defined the basic protein structure of the T-cell antigen receptor. Throughout his career he has focused on the fundamental biology of T cells. This research eventually led to the development and FDA approval of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug, ipilimumab, which is used to treat melanoma of the skin, and some other cancers.
Drs. Francesca Cole, Ph.D., Marcos Estecio, Ph.D., Yue Lu, Ph.D., and Kevin McBride, Ph.D., promoted (9/1/2018).
Assistant professors Cole, Estecio, Lu and McBride were each promoted to associate professor at the start of the fiscal year 2019.
Mark Bedford, Ph.D., and Shawn Bratton, Ph.D., awarded renewed funding for Protein Array and Analysis Core from CPRIT (8/24/2018).
The PAAC provides innovative, cutting-edge, cancer research tools for the discovery and characterization of novel protein-protein interactions and serves as a one-of-a-kind resource for researchers in central Texas and around the world to test whether their peptide of interest (usually a posttranslationally modified peptide) interacts with specific protein domains across multiple proteins bearing that particular domain.
Francesca Cole, Ph.D., honored during the President's Recognition of Faculty Excellence Reception (8/16/2018).
Cole was recognized for Faculty Excellence in Research.
Nidhi Sahni, Ph.D., joins the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis (8/1/2018).
Sahni's research takes a systems-based approach to study the biology of human cancer. That is, rather than studying individual biological components or isolated pathways, she uses mathematical and computational approaches to define entire networks regulating the fundamental cellular and organismal processes underlying the genetic and epigenetic aberrations that contribute to cancer heterogeneity and that allow tumors to evade treatment.
Richard Wood, Ph.D., elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (4/18/2018)
Wood was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the Class of Biological Sciences, Section 1, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology. At the time, he was one of only five MD Anderson faculty members who had received this honor. He is known for his foundational work in nucleotide excision repair and his ongoing work that is defining the role of DNA polymerases in maintaining genomic stability.
Richard Wood, Ph.D., inducted into TAMEST (1/11/2018)
The Academy of Medicine Engineering & Science of Texas inducted their 18 newest members from the class of 2017 in January 2018, during the group's annual conference. Membership recognizes exceptional individuals in the fields of medicine, engineering and science. Wood is widely known for his pioneering work in nucleotide excision repair and is a Fellow of The Royal Society.
Cole Laboratory publishes new paper in Cell (10/19/2017)
Chromosome mis-segregation creates cells with the wrong number of chromosomes (aneuploid cells). In gametes (eggs and sperm), chromosome mis-segregation can lead to human aneuploidies like trisomy 21 that causes Down syndrome. Although it is well known that older mothers are more likely to give birth to children with Down syndrome, it is less well known that younger fathers are also more likely to parent a Down syndrome child. To understand this lesser known phenomenon, the Cole lab (Zelazowski M et al, Cell, 2017) has directly studied chromosome recombination during male meiosis in juvenile and adult mice. Recombination during meiosis results from programmed DNA breakage, subsequent DNA repair and the formation of crossovers – a specific DNA repair product that exchanges DNA between parental chromosomes. Crossovers are essential for segregating the correct number of chromosomes into each gamete. The Cole lab found that fewer crossovers formed during juvenile waves of meiosis compared to adult waves, because juvenile waves of meiosis employ alternative DNA repair pathways that are less likely to generate crossovers. This discovery is important not only for understanding the origin of aneuploidy in sperm, but also for understanding how cells repair DNA, which is important because although errors in DNA repair can lead to cancer-causing mutations, they can also be exploited for the treatment of cancer.
Ellen Richie, Ph.D., and Collene Jeter, Ph.D., garner CPRIT funding for Flow Cytometry and Cell Imaging Core (8/16/17)
This new grant will support the Science Park Flow Cytometry and Cell Imaging core. It is anticipated that the award will be used to purchase a new FACSAria III cell sorter, a Leica TCS SP8 multiphoton microscope and a FAST Airyscan module to increase the utility of their current confocal microscope.
Margarida A Santos, Ph.D., earns prestigious awards
Margarida Almeida Santos, Ph.D., was named a 2017 American Society of Hematology (ASH) Scholar in November and a 2017 Andrew Sabin Family Fellow in March. The prestigious ASH Award supports fellows and junior faculty transitioning from trainee to independent investigator. The ASH award will be used to study the “Tumor promoting role of the DNA damage response in MLL-fusion leukemias.” The Sabin Family Fellows Award was established to encourage creative, independent thinking and high-risk, high-impact research at MD Anderson. Santos will use the award to investigate “The tumor promoting role of the DNA damage response.”
Han Xu, Ph.D., joins department with CPRIT award (1/2/17)
Assistant Professor Han Xu, Ph.D., joined the faculty of the Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis department in January, arriving from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Xu received his Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science and Master of Engineering in Information Systems from Zhejiang University, China. Xu is developing computational algorithms for the design and analysis of high-throughput biological experiments with a focus on applications in transcriptional and epigenetic gene regulation. His current research emphasis is the optimization, design and analysis of CRISPR-based genetic and epigenetic perturbation screens
Department raises money for Adopt a Family (1/2/17)
The Houston-based laboratories of Michelle Barton, Ph.D. and Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D., raised $925 to help brighten the holiday season for the families of patients undergoing treatment at MD Anderson. In addition, Rebecca Deen, Jennifer Crunk and Sandra Smith who work on the Smithville Campus, raised an additional $532 by contributing wreaths to the annual Wreath Auction.
Bratton Lab advances understanding of how chemotherapies kill cells (11/24/16)
Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a means cells use to cause their own death. Toxic agents, like chemotherapeutics, trigger apoptosis by activating proteins called caspases. A protein complex known as the apoptosome helps activate caspases. The Bratton lab has revealed the underlying mechanisms that define the Apaf-1-caspase-9 apoptosome as a proteolytic-based molecular timer (Wu CC et al, Nat Commun, 2016). In doing so, they have provided the first direct evidence that caspase-9 forms both homo- and heterodimers within the apoptosome, each of which plays unique roles in the initial recruitment, activation, processing and release of caspase-9 from the complex. Given the apoptosome’s critical role in the execution of stress-induced apoptosis, these studies provide key insights into the mechanisms by which many, if not most, chemotherapeutic agents induce cell death.
Johnson and Cole Labs uncover a new role for a tumor suppressor in DNA repair (11/15/16)
Work from the Johnson lab previously showed that E2F1, a critical transcription factor target of the retinoblastoma (Rb) tumor suppressor protein, localizes to sites of both UV and IR induced DNA damage in a phosphorylation dependent manner. At sites of UV damage, E2F1 recruits the histone acetyltransferase GCN5, which acetylates histone H3K9 in order to open chromatin structure and increase accessibility to the damaged site by the DNA repair machinery. Now they have shown, in cooperation with the Cole lab, that E2F1 recruits not only Rb, but also BRG1 (the ATPase subunit of the chromatin remodeler SWI/SNF) to sites of DNA double-strand breaks, where they promote DNA end resection and homologous recombination (HR) (Velez-Cruz et al, Genes Dev, 2016).
Stellar students land GSBS scholarships and awards
Aundrietta Duncan (Barton Lab) - R. W. Butcher Achievement Award.
Aimee Farria and Sharon Dent (Dent Lab) - Andrew Sowell-Wade Huggins Professor and Fellow Award.
Sitaram Gayatri (Bedford Lab) - Wei Yu Family Endowed Scholarship.
Rhea Kang (Cole Lab) - City Federation of Women’s Clubs Endowed Scholarship in Biomedical Sciences.
Nicolas Veland (T. Chen Lab) - Andrew Sowell-Wade Huggins Scholarship in Cancer Research.
Science Park Next Generation Sequencing Core funding is renewed (9/14/16)
Professor Jianjun (JJ) Shen has obtained a $5 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to support the Next Generation Sequencing Core that he directs. This core has prepared and sequenced >3200 libraries, including total RNA, mRNA, miRNA, DNA methylation, ChIP-Seq and exome libraries, for nearly 40 user group members (including 10 early career investigators) from seven distinct Texas institutions.
Margarida A. Santos named Kimmel Scholar (4/11/16).
Margarida Almeida Santos, Ph.D., was named one of 15 Kimmel Scholars. The Sidney Kimmel Foundation, which made the $200,000 award, supports promising early-career cancer researchers. The award will support her research targeting protein arginine methylation in MLL-fusion acute myeloid leukemia.
Sharon Dent, honored at the President's Recognition for Faculty Excellence event (2/24/2016).
Dr. Dent received one of two inaugural R. Lee Clark Prizes, bestowed for exemplifying "the spirit of our institution's first president."
Professor and Chair, Sharon Dent Interviewed for "People and Ideas" feature in the Journal of Cell Biology (1/4/16).
Sharon Dent, Ph.D., gave a brief interview and research retrospective in the January 4, issue of JCB. In it she talks about her longstanding interests in chromatin, transcriptional control and epigenetics.
Assistant Professor Francesca Cole Awarded NIH Director's New Innovator Award (10/6/15)
Francesca Cole, Ph.D., was recently named one of 41 NIH New Innovator Award Recipients for 2015. The New Innovator Award supports exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact. Dr. Cole's project, "Mechanistic Derivation of Germ Line Mutation by Genome-Wide Mouse Tetrad Analysis," will help define the global patterns of de novo germ line mutations and the frequencies at which such mutations occur in mice, with the long term goal of understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying germ line mutagenesis and developing strategies to prevent or treat disorders caused by such mutations. This award provides $2.4M in total costs.
Professor Richard Wood Interviewed on NPR Regarding the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for DNA Repair (10/7/15).
Rick Wood, Ph.D., a well-known figure in the field of DNA repair was interviewed by NPR affiliate WBUR, in Boston, regarding the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded for "Mechanistic Studies of DNA Repair." The prizes were awarded to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar. Dr. Wood has previously worked in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Tomas Lindahl.
Role of SAGA, a histone acetylase complex, in reprogramming fibroblasts to a stem cell state defined (4/15/15)
A collaboration between Dr. Sharon Dent and Dr. Jeff Wrana at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, has shown that Myc drives expression of the SAGA component Gcn5. Together, Myc and Gcn5, a histone acetyltransferase, reprogram fibroblasts to a stem cell state by activating an alternative splicing network. This collaboration also showed that Gcn5 is important for Myc-mediated stem cell self-renewal in embryonic stem cells. These findings raise the possibility that Myc-Gcn5 could also work together to promote tumor formation. Genes Dev. 2015 Jun 15;29(12):1341
CARM 1 promotes nuclear export of special class of RNAs (3/15/15)
Donghang Cheng, Ph.D. in Dr. Mark Bedford's group was the co-corresponding author on a study demonstrating that in the absence of the arginine methyltransferase CARM1, a certain class of protein encoding RNAs remain in the nucleus. These mRNAs, which contain inverted repeats of the short interspersed nuclear element Alu in their 3' untranslated regions (IRAlus), are retained in nuclear bodies known as paraspeckles. CARM1 promotes their export from the nucleus via a dual mechanism. Genes Dev 2015 Mar 15;29(6):630-45