The 2019 AACR NextGen Grant for Transformative Cancer Research will support Vaske’s research on pediatric cancer genomics | April 25, 2019 | Tim Stephens

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has awarded a prestigious 2019 NextGen Grant for Transformative Cancer Research to Olena Morozova Vaske, assistant professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UC Santa Cruz.

The three-year, $450,000 grant will support Vaske’s research on the use of genomic markers to guide treatment decisions for children with cancer. Vaske, who holds the Colligan Presidential Chair in Pediatric Genomics, said the project aims to increase the number of pediatric cancer patients who could benefit from targeted therapies.

Vaske’s team has developed a novel RNA sequencing analysis that can reveal abnormally active genes in a patient’s cancer cells. The researchers plan to identify highly expressed genes that could be targeted with drugs and study the biological effects of those genes. They will also evaluate whether the increased expression of these genes is predictive of how the cells respond to cancer-fighting drugs.

Another part of the project will use nanopore sequencing technology developed by UCSC biomolecular engineers David Deamer and Mark Akeson. Working with Akeson’s lab, Vaske’s team will use the technology to profile cancer cell lines and identify the genetic changes responsible for abnormal gene expression patterns.

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