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DF/HCC Announces 2013 Nodal Award Recipients

Carla Kim, PhD, recipient of a 2013 DF/HCC Nodal Award.

December 16, 2013

Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) encourages and supports the development of scientific collaborations among Center members that promote new translational cancer research as well as research that addresses issues relevant to the unequal burden of cancer and cancer outcomes in diverse populations. To advance this goal, DF/HCC annually funds pilot projects that are designed to enhance or create new "nodal points,Ē or interactions between members in clinical and discipline-based DF/HCC Research Programs. These interactions provide an opportunity to link research efforts across Programs, with a focus on projects that have the potential of significant human application.

Two pilot projects were awarded in 2013, each for $75,000 (direct costs) per year for up to two years. Congratulations to the 2013 Nodal Award Recipients.

2013 Recipients

Principal Investigator: Carla Kim, PhD (BCH)
Collaborator: John Quackenbush, PhD (DFCI)
Project Title: Modeling cell fate transitions in lung cancer stem cells
Abstract: Kim and Quackenbush hypothesize that there are distinct differences in the regulatory networks and cell fates associated with cancer stem cells and normal adult stem cells. By discovering and dissecting the regulatory networks, they will find key factors that drive tumor development and cell fate decisions. They propose to build network models of cancer stem cells in the murine lung. They will use assays developed by Carla Kimís research group (a member of the DF/HCC Lung Cancer Program) to study the differentiation of bronchioalveolar stem cells (BASCs) from wild-type, KRas and KRas/p53 mice. BASCs and differentiated progeny will be profiled for gene expression using RNA-seq. Integrative methods including those developed by John Quackenbush and his colleagues (a member of the DF/HCC Discipline-based Biostatistics and Computational Biology Program) will be applied to integrate the gene expression data with prior knowledge from the literature and build regulatory networks. They will also use techniques from statistical physics to map which driver genes and gene modules are associated with each cell fate. They aim to identify gene modules that drive cancer stem cells, but not normal lung stem cells, to help in the identification of drug targets that are specific to the cancer stem cells. Importantly, they will perform these studies in three-dimensional systems that mimic the lung microenvironment. 

Principal Investigator: Jarvis Chen, ScD (HSPH)
Collaborator: Christopher Lathan, MD, MPH (DFCI)
Project Title: Developing novel models for revealing spatial and temporal variation in racial/ethnic and socioeconomic cancer mortality: a pilot study
Abstract: This lung cancer disparities-focused project is a collaboration between the Cancer Risk and Disparities and Lung Cancer programs of the DF/HCC. Jarvis Chen and Chris Lathan seek to develop novel hierarchical models for spatiotemporal data that allow for characterization of geographic variation in racial/ethnic disparities and temporal trends in the spatial patterning of these disparities in relation to socioeconomic and other policy-relevant contextual variables. They will make use of US county-level mortality data for lung, female breast, and prostate cancers, and relevant socioeconomic and other contextual variables, extending from 1960 to 2010. For this pilot project, they will focus on black-white disparities; however, the models they develop will also be applicable to modeling cancer mortality for other racial/ethnic groups. Chen and Lathan anticipate that the development of these methods will greatly contribute to future projects to investigate macrosocial determinants of population health and health disparities.

The Chen-Lathan award was made in collaboration with the Lung Cancer Disparities Center (LCDC) at the Harvard School of Public Health. Additional criteria for this jointly selected project included aims to better understand the joint influence of race and socioeconomic status on cancer disparities.