Cells rely on molecular switches to carry out normal functions. One class of switches called tyrosine kinases (TK) control cell division and can cause cancers if they become altered. One alteration found in some cancers results from the fusion of the normal TK with a cellular protein. This leads to a molecular switch that no longer functions correctly. These fusions are good targets for drug development. Gleevec, which has been used very successfully to treat a specific form of leukemia and an unusual gastrointestinal tumor, is the most notable example of a successful use of this approach. Pao seeks to identify novel TK fusions in 100 well characterized lung and breast cancers. He will use cutting-edge genomic technologies to capture, sequence and identify TK fusions in relatively small samples of tumor DNA. If successful, this work will provide new targets for future drug development.
William Pao, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine the Ingram associate professor of cancer research; and assistant director of personalized cancer medicine, Vanderbilit-Ingram Cancer Center
Updated: Dec. 3, 2009