GRANTEE: Kamini Singh, PhD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Research Project: Targeting KRAS Protein Production in PDAC
Award: 2016 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network – NCI Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research KRAS Travel Scholarship
Award Period: March 1, 2016 – February 28, 2017
Biographical and Research Highlights
Dr. Singh earned her PhD in biotechnology from Pune University in India, and then she continued her training as a research intern and a postdoctoral fellow at MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Cleveland Clinic, respectively. Currently, Dr. Singh is a research associate in cancer biology and genetics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her research interest is focused on cancer genetics and signaling – the ways in which proteins within cancer cells communicate with one another to elicit an effect on cellular behavior – in order to identify if any of these signaling pathways can be therapeutically targeted.
In general, cancer is caused by a series of genetic changes that impact protein expression and activity. Genes are “translated” into proteins through a complex, highly regulated process, and mutations and other mistakes within genes get translated into proteins that behave abnormally to induce cancer development and progression. In her current position in the laboratory of Dr. Hans-Guido Wendel, Dr. Singh’s research goal is to understand how a protein involved in gene-to-protein translation, eIF4A helicase, affects the progression of pancreatic cancer by controlling translation of mutant KRAS and other key proteins that impact disease progression. KRAS is known to be mutated in 95 percent of pancreatic cancer cases.
Dr. Singh isolated a drug called silvestrol that can block the ability of eIF4A helicase to translate genes like mutant KRAS into proteins that promote cancer growth. She plans to travel to the Frederick National Laboratory, the hub of the National Cancer Institute RAS Initiative, to study the effect of silvestrol on pancreatic cancer cells, with specific focus on KRAS expression. She will also determine if there are other potential ways to inhibit the translation of the mutated KRAS gene into its protein form and determine whether drugs that block translation could be effective in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.