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Deciphering cancer: Genomic instability in cancer

This webinar is brought to you by the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office

Deciphering cancer: Genomic instability in cancer

Recorded 16 November 2016


While it is well established that DNA damage can increase the risk of cancer, changes to the epigenome or the chromatin architecture are equally important. DNA damage triggers a redistribution of DNA-binding proteins around the site of damage, resulting in localized and temporary alteration of chromatin structure. However, repeated cycles of DNA damage and repair may lead to permanent changes in the epigenome, thereby promoting the onset of diseases such as cancer. This webinar will examine how we may be able to develop effective new therapeutic options for cancer treatment by targeting proteins responsible for chromatin modifications.

During the webinar, the speakers will:

  • Highlight the mechanisms of tumorigenesis and genomic instability resulting from copy number gains
  • Explain the different forms of DNA damage that lead to genomic instability and tumorigenesis
  • Investigate how understanding genomic instability can inform the development of cancer treatments.

The webinar will last approximately 60 minutes.

You can also view Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of this series.

Speaker bios

Mark J. O'Connor, Ph.D.

Cambridge, UK

Dr. O’Connor is chief scientist in oncology at AstraZeneca (AZ), based in Cambridge, United Kingdom, where he heads up the DNA Damage Response (DDR) area. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Bristol University and carried out his postdoctoral research at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore. In 1999, he became research team leader at the Cambridge startup and DDR-specialist biotech company KuDOS, and was promoted to chief scientist in 2009. Since 2006, Dr. O’Connor has provided scientific leadership on olaparib, the first-in-class oral poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor, through its transfer to AZ and approval in the United States and Europe in 2014. Olaparib is the first cancer medicine based on a targeted inhibitor of DDR, and Dr. O’Connor has overseen the growth of DDR within AZ to an industry-leading portfolio comprising seven DDR projects with five inhibitors currently in clinical development. He is a named inventor on multiple patents and has publications in numerous top, peer-reviewed international journals.

Johnathan R. Whetstine, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center Harvard Medical School
Charlestown, MA

Dr. Whetstine received his undergraduate degrees in recombinant genetics and chemistry from Western Kentucky University. His interest in combining gene control and chemistry prompted him to join the Pharmacology Department at Wayne State University, where he obtained his Ph.D. He then joined Harvard Medical School to complete his postdoctoral fellowship in epigenetics, later moving to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School, where he is now associate professor. His laboratory has established that chromatin factors are capable of driving DNA copy-number alterations at specific sites within the genome that are associated with drug resistance. This discovery changes how we perceive the regulation of DNA replication and establishes new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for reducing the selection of drug-resistant DNA changes. Dr. Whetstine is on the forefront of breakthroughs regarding how we view chemotherapeutic drug resistance. His laboratory is examining the fundamental role genotypes play in cancer treatment, which may ultimately lead to personalized treatments resulting in better outcomes. He is a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar and the Tepper Family MGH Research Scholar, as well as the 2014–2016 Lung Cancer Discovery Award recipient from the American Lung Association and the 2015–2017 Innovation Grant awardee from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Sean Sanders, Ph.D.

Washington, DC

Dr. Sanders did his undergraduate training at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, UK, supported by the Wellcome Trust. Following postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health and Georgetown University, Dr. Sanders joined TranXenoGen, a startup biotechnology company in Massachusetts working on avian transgenics. Pursuing his parallel passion for writing and editing, Dr. Sanders joined BioTechniques as an editor, before joining Science/AAAS in 2006. Currently, Dr. Sanders is the Director and Senior Editor for Custom Publishing for the journal Science and Program Director for Outreach.

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