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February 23, 2008, 2:30 PM

Cell Biology and Cancer: Genes, Mutation, and Cell Death

Participants: Selina Chen-Kiang, James Manley, Carol Portlock, Carol Prives (moderator), Hermann Steller, Eileen White

Cells are the basic building blocks of all living organisms. They come in different sizes and shapes and have different functions. The complex structure of cells has been gradually revealed, particularly as the technological advances of the second half of the 20th century have elucidated their constituent parts, along with their function and chemical structure. A cell multiplies, differentiates, dies, and mutates. Programmed cell death (apoptosis) has been a subject of active study in recent years, and, along with mutation, is an important part of the research on health disorders and aging. While the cell is deceptively simple, it mirrors the complex life of the organism. Researchers have engaged imaginative processes along with scientific method to reach a deeper understanding of the life and the death of the cell. This roundtable will examine these insights, especially in relation to the mutations that lead to cancer.

Selina Chen-Kiang is Professor of Pathology and Professor of Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis at Weill-Cornell Medical College. She directs the Specialized Center of Research for Myeloma and serves on many advisory boards, including the Medical and Scientific Committee of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Basic Science Council of the National Cancer Institute. Among the honors she has received is the Researcher of the Year Award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The goal of her work is to dissect the regulation of immune response at the molecular and genetic level and apply this knowledge to the development of novel cancer therapy, in particular how to treat blood cancers by controlling cancer cell division.

James Manley is the J.C. Levi Professor of Life Sciences at Columbia University. He has served on the editorial board of many scientific journals, and in 2006 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His current research involves investigating several aspects of gene expression in animal cells, specifically transcription of mRNA encoding genes, mRNA splicing, and mRNA polyadenylation.

Carol Portlock is Professor of Clinical Medicine at New York Weill Cornell University Medical College. She is also Attending Physician of Lymphoma Service in the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Portlock received her undergraduate and medical degree at Stanford University, and was a medical oncology faculty member at Stanford and Yale before joining the faculty at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Dr. Portlock has been a previous member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute and the Oncologic Drug Advisory Committee of the F.D.A. She was the recipient of the Evelyn Hoffman Memorial Award from the Lymphoma Research Foundation of America, and the Ettinger Prize of the American Cancer Society, Connecticut Division.

Carol Prives is the DaCosta Professor of Biology and the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. In 1998 she was awarded a Research Professorship from the American Cancer Society. In 2000 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is known as a leader in the p53 tumor suppressor field. Her laboratory discovered that p53 is a sequence-specific transcriptional activator and that that cancer-related mutants of p53 are defective in this function. She has served on a number of Scientific Advisory Boards and numerous review boards, including the NIH Virology Study Section, the Damon Runyon Fellowship Committee, New Jersey Cancer Commission, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Hermann Steller is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Strang Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Apoptosis and Cancer Biology at the Rockefeller University in New York. Prior to this he was Professor and Howard Hughes Investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among other honors, Dr. Steller received a Searle Scholar Award, a Pew Scholar Award, a Meyerhoff Visiting Professorship from the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Lady Davis Award from the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion in Israel, and an award from the Johnson & Johnson Focused Giving Program. The goal of his current work is to exploit advances in our understanding of cell death pathways for cancer therapy, stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

Eileen White is the Associate Director for Basic Science at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Rutgers University. She is Director of the Viral Transformation Laboratory at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine that investigates mechanism of cell death regulation in cancer. Dr. White has received numerous awards, including a MERIT award from the National Cancer Institute and the Red Smith award from the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Foundation. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Microbiology and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association for Cancer Research. She is an investigator on cancer clinical trials and a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry for anti-cancer drug discovery.


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