April 9, 2013

Bajpai wins grant from the American Cancer Society

CCMB Assistant Professor Ruchi Bajpai has recently been awarded an institutional research grant from the American Cancer Society for a research project entitled “An epigenetic approach to identify regulatory circuitry for determining diagnostic and prognostic targets for neuroblastomas.” Dr. Bajpai is interested in how neural crest cells, which give rise to craniofacial structures, peripheral nervous system and pigment cells in normal development generate tumors such as neuroblastoma and melanoma in early childhood. While cancer stem cells, which generate the bulk of a tumor, have been identified in several types of cancer, their existence in neuroblastomas has not yet been unequivocally demonstrated.

In this project, Dr. Bajpai and her group will be making use of their expertise in determining unique enhancers, which are regulatory regions of the genome that drive cell-type specific expression of certain genes. Being able to pinpoint epigenetically marked, active enhancer regions can identify critical regulators of  the particular subpopulation of cancer cells that spread (metastasize) to different locations outside the primary tumor, and also for those cells that remain after cancer therapy.  The aim of Dr. Bajpai’s research in this vein will be to identify cancer stem cells in neuroblastoma, migrating cells that cause tumor spread, and cells that are resistant to therapy and cause resurgence of the disease. Making these precise identifications will lead to novel therapies for neuroblastoma and better prediction of how specific patients will respond to different treatments.

Congratulations to Ruchi and her team!