(Boston)–Rachel Flynn, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), is the recipient of an Elsa U. Pardee award for approximately $148,000 for "Targeting the Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) Pathway in cancer." This pathway is frequently reactivated in aggressive cancers such as osteosarcoma and glioblastoma, which are often resistant to standard chemotherapy.
Flynn's lab uses a combination of biochemical and cell biological approaches to study mechanisms of telomere maintenance.The telomere is a repetitive DNA sequence that caps the ends of each human chromosome and acts as a barrier, protecting the genome. Each time a cell divides, a portion of this barrier is lost and over time genetic information becomes susceptible to degradation and/or damage.
To avoid this type of damage critically short telomeres send a signal to the cell to induce either growth arrest or cell death. Cancer cells, however, have evolved mechanisms to overcome progressive telomere shortening and bypass this growth arrest. One mechanism promoting telomere elongation is the ALT pathway.
Flynn has recently identified a small molecule that selectively kills ALT-positive cancer cells. "This grant will further validate the use of this small molecule and if successful, has the potential to redefine the therapeutic approach to some of the most deadly forms of human cancer. We are grateful to the Elsa U. Pardee Foundation for their generosity," she added.
The Elsa U. Pardee Foundation was established in 1944 under the terms of the will of Mrs. Elsa U. Pardee, whose life was taken by cancer on October 2, 1944. Mrs. Pardee provided a $1 million trust fund "for the promotion of the control and cure of cancer." She directed that this bequest be used to support research in the field of cancer and to provide for others the advantages of new knowledge and techniques for the treatment of this related group of disabling and frequently lethal diseases.
Since 1944, this family-run foundation has proudly granted over $125 million to support two key areas including research programs directed toward discovering new approaches for cancer treatment and cure and financial support for cancer treatment.