PhRMA Foundation grant awardees continue to make headlines in genomic research. One example is Hunter Shain, PhD, a cancer geneticist at the University of California San Francisco who is part of a team at the University of California San Francisco that has published groundbreaking research on gene patterns in malignant skin cancer.
Dr. Shain, who received a 2017 Research Starter Grant in Translational Medicine & Therapeutics from the Foundation, helped identify the sequence of genetic changes that transform benign moles into malignant skin cancer. The team has used gene editing to recreate the steps of melanoma evolution one by one in normal human skin cells in the lab.
Dr. Shain’s research, published in the journal Cancer Cell, for the first time systematically traced the how new mutations and changes in gene activity break down cellular protective mechanisms, allowing moles to transform into melanoma and begin to spread.
You can watch a short video interview online with Dr. Shain in which he describes the work of his team.
Why is this important to cancer patients? Dr. Shain’s research has identified key molecular warning signs that could be used by clinicians to catch developing cancers before they spread and could also lead to new targeted therapies.
The new studies also identify new biomarkers that could be used in the clinic to more reliably detect rapidly progressing melanomas that require additional treatment beyond surgical removal.
Dr. Shain is a 2006 graduate of the University of Illinois, Champaign and received his PhD from Stanford University in 2012. He is an Assistant Professor and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Dermatology at UCSF.
The Foundation is delighted to have provided funding to help Dr. Shain with his research and congratulate him on these important advances in the effort to better understand and treat cancer!