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AACR-Aflac, Inc. Career Development Award for Pediatric Cancer Research

The AACR-Aflac, Inc. Career Development Award for Pediatric Cancer Research represents a joint effort to encourage and support junior faculty who have completed their most recent doctoral degree or medical residency within the past 11 years to conduct pediatric cancer research and establish successful career paths in this field. The research proposed for funding may be basic, translational, clinical, or epidemiological in nature and must have direct applicability and relevance to pediatric cancer.

2018 Grantee

Claudia Benavente, PhD

Claudia Benavente, PhD

Assistant Professor
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, California
Role of UHRF1 in osteosarcoma

Scientific Statement of Research
Genetic alterations at the RB1 gene are associated with poor prognosis in osteosarcoma. However, the precise mechanism through which this occurs is unknown. Dr. Benavente identified UHRF1 as a protein overexpressed in osteosarcoma. UHRF1 is a multifunctional protein involved in epigenetic regulation that directly interacts with RB1. Further, the RB/E2F pathway directly regulates UHRF1 expression. Their data shows that targeting UHRF1 overexpression dramatically increases survival of mice bearing osteosarcoma tumors and reduces the rate and number of metastases. This project aims to determine the mechanism(s) through which UHRF1 contributes to tumor progression to help design novel therapeutic interventions for osteosarcoma treatment. For this, they will define the role of UHRF1 in osteosarcoma pathogenesis and progression and define the role of the UHRF1 domains associated with migration and invasion in osteosarcoma. They will test the hypothesis that gene expression alterations driven by UHRF1 underlie tumor progression and poor survival in osteosarcoma.

Dr. Benavente received her BS/MS in molecular biotechnology engineering at Universidad de Chile where her interest in pursuing cancer research first started. She then pursued her PhD in cancer biology at The University of Arizona as a Fulbright Scholar. As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Michael Dyer’s laboratory at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, she began studying the role of the RB pathway epigenetic regulation. Dr. Benavente is currently an assistant professor in the Departments of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Developmental and Cell Biology at UCI, where she continues to conduct basic and translational research in childhood solid tumors.

Acknowledgement of Support
The AACR-Aflac Career Development Award will offer the support necessary to ensure this project reaches publication. At the same time, it provides the resources to strengthen the project foundations that are necessary for securing long-term funding and establish my independent career in the field of pediatric cancer research.