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Mapping the EphA Receptor Landscape in Lung Cancer

Institution: The Burnham Institute for Medical Research
Investigator(s): Erika Lisabeth, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2011 (Cycle 20) Grant #: 20FT-0076 Award: $98,299
Subject Area: Cancer
Award Type: Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards

Initial Award Abstract
A main focus of the TRDRP is to accelerate research to understand and treat diseases caused by tobacco smoke, one of which is lung cancer. Tobacco smoke is very harmful, and can cause many changes to the normal lung (known as mutations). Normal lung function is dependent on many proteins working correctly, and when mutagenic chemicals found in tobacco smoke alter these proteins, this can lead to lung cancer. It has been established that certain proteins are changed (mutated) at a high frequency in lung cancer. In addition, recent large-scale genetic screening studies have revealed that many other proteins are also highly mutated. Among these are certain members of the EphA family. The EphA proteins are located on the cell surface, and regulate a wide variety of cellular processes, including cell growth, cell movement and the spatial organization of cells in tissues. EphA proteins can either increase or decrease cancer cell malignancy, depending a variety of factors that are not well understood. The focus of my research is on this EphA family of proteins, several of which have been found to be mutated in lung cancer. I hypothesize that different members of the EphA family have different functions in lung cancer, based on the findings that some have decreased expression and many mutations in lung cancer, while others have increased expression and few mutations. Therefore, some EphA proteins may act as tumor promoters and some as tumor suppressors. I anticipate that the information gathered from my studies will help physicians discriminate which EphA receptors would be suitable to target with drugs in order to reduce lung cancer progression.