Broad RNA-Seq researcher named winner of the 2017 Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research

MSK award recognizes promising investigators aged 45 or younger at the time of nomination for their efforts in advancing cancer research

Aviv Regev

Dr. Regev is director of the Klarman Cell Observatory at the Broad Institute, a professor in the biology department at MIT, and an HHMI investigator. She is also one of the leaders of Human Cell Atlas, an international effort to build a collection of maps that will describe and define the cellular basis of health and disease.

She has been a pioneer in developing experimental and computational methods for the genomic analysis of single cancer cells, especially using the process called RNA sequencing (RNA Seq). Because RNA Seq looks at RNA rather than DNA, it enables investigators to determine which genes are being expressed, or “turned on,” in particular cells.

Dr. Regev explains that to leverage the full benefits of next-generation sequencing, it’s important to look at cells on the individual level, rather than looking at the makeup of an entire tumor. “You can think of the way tumors have traditionally been analyzed as a fruit smoothie. All the cell types are mixed together, and it’s hard to determine what makes up the mixture,” she says. “Single-cell analysis is more like looking at a fruit salad. You can not only characterize each fruit individually, but also determine how much of each type is present.”

Dr. Regev’s has made discoveries thus far in two types of cancer: brain tumors and melanoma. By using this single-cell method, her team has discovered that although oligodendroglioma and astrocytoma, two types of brain cancer, appear to be very different, they both contain the same cancer stem cells. These stem cells account for what makes them difficult to treat and could yield insights into how targeted therapies could be developed that would be effective against both cancers.

In melanoma, her lab has determined that a small subset of tumor cells is resistant to therapy before treatment has even started. These findings offer new clues about how to best treat individual patients.

In addition to her own research, Dr. Regev is also active in helping many other investigators to use the methods she has developed. “These insights will help everyone who works in this area to develop better diagnostics and better therapies,” she says.

She earned her doctorate in Computational Biology from Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Source – Newswise

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