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Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation-AACR Grants

Formerly the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation, the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation updated its name in 2015 to better reflect the current medical terminology for the disease and to include all those who are affected by neuroendocrine cancer in their community of support. The Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation-AACR Grants represent a joint effort to promote and support innovative cancer research. This grant is available to independent junior and senior investigators to develop and study new ideas and innovative approaches that have direct application and relevance to neuroendocrine tumors. Proposed research may be in any discipline of basic, translational, clinical, or epidemiological cancer research.

2018 Grantee

Pawel Mazur, PhDPawel Mazur, PhD
Assistant Professor
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas
Spacer_1 lineNext generation animal models to define therapies for neuroendocrine tumors

Scientific Statement of Research
Our overarching goal is to better understand the role of lysine methylation of cellular proteins in neuroendocrine tumor development. To explore possible connections between over 100 methyltransferases and tumorigenesis we performed a high-content genetic screen. We identified NSD3 enzyme as a key driver of neuroendocrine tumor progression and drug resistance. However, the catalytic activity and substrate specificity of NSD3 in neuroendocrine tumors remains unknown. We hypothesize that NSD3 enzymatic activity cooperates with oncogenic signaling to promote the unlimited expansion of neuroendocrine cells. We will use a multi-disciplinary strategy to characterize NSD3 methylation activity and elucidate the molecular mechanisms and pathways by which NSD3 promotes tumorigenesis. To validate the function and therapeutic potential of NSD3 we have generated a pre-clinical mouse model of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors faithfully recapitulating human disease. The major, long-term impact of our studies will be the development of novel therapeutic strategies to treat several types of devastating neuroendocrine cancers.

Dr. Mazur earned his Ph.D. degree in 2011 in the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and University of Munich, Germany. From 2011 to 2016 Dr. Mazur completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University, in the laboratory of Dr. Julien Sage. Since 2017 Dr. Mazur is an Assistant Professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Mazur’s research uncovered the function of several orphan enzymes that provided new links between protein modification and cancer biology. His lab aims to harness protein post translation modification signaling to cancer therapy. Dr. Mazur's work is supported by the NIH Pathway to Independence, CPRIT Rising Star Award and Sanofi Innovation Award.

Acknowledgement of Support
Unique mechanisms that drive neuroendocrine tumors development are not fully recognized. Our progress is hindered by the lack of proper pre-clinical models of the disease. The award provides critically needed resources to build a comprehensive cancer modeling platform to identify and validate novel therapeutics using accurate animal models that faithfully recapitulate human disease.

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2017 Grantee

Gorski_90x110.jpgSharon Gorski, PhD
Senior Scientist
Genome Sciences Center
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Proteogenomic analysis of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors

Scientific Statement of Research
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) are an under-studied type of neuroendocrine tumor that are rare but clinically challenging due to late detection, variable progression, and frequent metastasis. The molecular basis of PNETs is not well understood and there are no prognostic markers to aid PNET clinical management. The overall aim of this study is to provide a comprehensive molecular characterization of PNETs to better understand disease progression and to devise clinically relevant subclasses. Dr. Gorski’s team has available both discovery and validation cohorts, including metastatic PNET cases. By integrating RNA-sequencing based transcriptome profiling and an innovative new technology for proteomic profiling of tumor specimens, their study will be the first to explore the proteogenomic landscape of PNETs. In addition to identifying disease classifiers, this study will lay the groundwork for further investigations of candidate biomarkers, potential driver mutations, and therapeutic targets.

Dr. Gorski completed a PhD in biology and biomedical bciences at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1999. She then conducted postdoctoral studies at the British Columbia Cancer Agency where she utilized genomics approaches to study cell death and cell survival pathways. Dr. Gorski is currently a senior scientist at the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre and a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University. Her research program includes analysis of cancer-related signaling pathways with a focus on breast and pancreatic cancers.

Acknowledgement of Support
We are very grateful for the 2017 Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation-AACR Grant that will enable us to generate the first proteogenomics resource for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. This unique resource has the potential to improve the clinical management of this disease, increase our knowledge of disease progression, and identify new therapeutic avenues for patients.

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2016 Grantee

Xianxin Hua, MD, PhD
Professor of Cancer Biology
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Targeting neuroendocrine tumors by suppressing a cell-surface protease

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), including insulinoma, can produce excessive hormones and lead to metastatic lesions and morbidity. The prevalence and incidence of neuroendocrine tumors have increased over the past few decades. The genetic causes of PNETs are diverse and heterogeneous, and understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms is vitally important for developing new mechanism-based target therapy. Multiple endocrine neoplasia type1 (MEN1), an inherited tumor syndrome developing various endocrine tumors including pancreatic NETs (PNETs), results from a mutation in the MEN1 gene that encodes the protein menin. Thus, the menin pathway serves a valuable model for studying the mechanism for NETs. The crystal structure of menin reveals it as a scaffold protein with a central deep pocket that binds to various partners. Moreover, death-domain-associated protein (Daxx) is also frequently mutated in PNETs. However, whether and how menin and Daxx functionally interact to regulate PNET cells is currently unclear.

Dr. Xianxin Hua’s group recently found that the menin pathway and the Daxx-related pathway crosstalk to epigenetically regulate proliferation of NET cells. This interaction at least partly suppresses a cell membrane protease that is crucial for grwoth of the NET cells. Mutations in the menin or the Daxx pathway can derepress the pro-growth cell surface protease. His group proposes to pharmacologically inhibit the cell surface protease with an FDA approved drug to suppress neuroendocrine tumors in preclinical models. The proposed studies will likely lead to a new paradigm of understanding how the neuroendocrine tumors are regulated, paving the way to develop novel means to improve treatment of human NETs.

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