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AACR-John and Elizabeth Leonard Family Foundation Basic Cancer Research Fellowship

The AACR-John and Elizabeth Leonard Family Foundation Basic Cancer Research Fellowship represents a joint effort to encourage and support mentored young investigators to conduct basic cancer research and to establish a successful career path in this field. Eligibility is limited to postdoctoral and clinical research fellows who will have completed their most recent doctoral degree within the past three years. The research proposed for funding may be in any area of basic cancer research.

2019 Grantee

Paola Kuri, PhD

Paola Kuri, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In vivo imaging of mutant cell growth dynamics in adult skin carcinogenesis

Scientific Statement of Research
The skin maintains homeostatic balance through carefully regulated stem cell divisions that replenish the cells shed from the surface. Exposure to UV irradiation causes spontaneous mutations that may disrupt a stem cell’s homeostatic program and lead to skin cancer. This project investigates how mutations that are linked to skin carcinogenesis, but are also paradoxically highly prevalent in normal skin, alter the activity of stem cells and increase disease susceptibility. Non-invasive monitoring and visualization of cell activity in the intact skin after acquisition of tumor-driver mutations is performed using long-term live imaging of both genetic and humanized mouse models. In these systems, single differentially labeled cells are genetically manipulated to recapitulate the appearance of spontaneous mutations. The fate of these individual cells is followed over time using state-of-the-art live imaging to determine the conditions that favor or limit cellular expansion in vivo, ultimately revealing critical information for disease prognosis.

After majoring in biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Dr. Kuri obtained her MSc in molecular biology from the University of Göttingen, Germany. For her PhD, she joined Professor Maria Leptin’s lab at EMBL in Heidelberg. There, she visualized and characterized inflammasome-dependent pyroptosis in keratinocytes by in vivo imaging of zebrafish skin. Fascinated by how live microscopy sheds light on tissue physiology, Dr. Kuri moved in 2018 to Professor Pantelis Rompolas’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania. In her postdoc, she uses intravital imaging of mammalian skin to study how oncogenic mutations disrupt tissue homeostasis and promote carcinogenesis at the single-cell level.

Acknowledgement of Support
I am honored to have been selected as a recipient of the AACR-John and Elizabeth Leonard Family Foundation Basic Cancer Research Fellowship. This invaluable support and recognition will significantly contribute to the development of my research project and will certainly always be a highlight of my scientific career.