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Shame of a Nation
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The Man Who Knows Too Much
The Culprit is Cancer

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Fall 1998
The Culprit is Cancer
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Among the more than 300 UCLA researchers probing the causes of cancer, these four working on genetic alterations are especially noteworthy.

Dr. Geraldine (Garry) Weinmaster Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry

Weinmaster was the first scientist to isolate a family of genes encoding Notch receptors and their ligands that activate Notch signaling in cells. The Notch signaling pathways plays a key role in regulating the cells' ability to receive cues from neighboring cells and to initiate appropriate cellular responses. Notch signaling can prevent or delay immature cells from developing into different, mature cell types. Since cancer is an abnormality of cell growth, it is not surprising that three of the four mammalian Notch genes have been linked to different forms of the disease. Says Weinmaster of her work: "The research in my laboratory centers around determining the molecular mechanism by which Notch signaling controls the number of normal cells, as well as understanding how uncontrolled Notch signaling leads to cancer."

Dr. Sam Gambhir Ph.D. '90, M.D. '93 Assistant Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology Director, Crump Institute for Biological Imaging

Over the last three years, Gambhir and colleagues have worked to develop methods to image genes in living animals in hope of eventually using such tools to monitor gene therapy. This year, they succeeded. In November, the Journal of Nuclear Medicine will carry the first-ever photographs of imaging reporter genes in living mice, the result of Gmbhir's pioneering efforts. Employing a new scanner called micro-PET, Gambhir was able to see reporter genes in mice that had been delivered using an adenoviral vector. If all goes well, human studies involving the micro-PET could begin in as early as six months. Says Gambhir of the method's potential: "One will be able to detect whether specific gene therapies are working or not, whether patients are getting their cancer back. It opens up this whole new arena for looking at events at the genetic level."

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