"By providing the opportunity to extend my research to the clinically important question of brain cancer, this award from The Sontag Foundation will facilitate my goals of applying knowledge gained from basic mechanisms of development to the problems of human disease."

- Dr. Anjen Chenn

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor in Pathology, University of Illinois at┬áChicago

About DSA-Funded Research

Beta catenin in cancer and normal brain development

Many cancers result from abnormalities in genes and proteins that regulate cell numbers during human growth and development. If abnormal, these same players can cause cells to ignore normal signals to stop growing, and instead multiply unchecked. Such uncontrolled growth can then lead to cancer. The beta catenin protein is a protein that normally functions during development to help specify the identity of many cells. Abnormalities in beta catenin have been identified in a wide variety of human cancers, including breast, colon, and skin cancer (melanoma), as well as the most common form of childhood brain tumor called medulloblastoma. This proposal seeks to improve our understanding of what causes brain cancer by studying how normal brains develop. Our research has examined the function in brain development of a form of beta catenin that is similar to that seen in many cancers. We have found in the developing brain, beta catenin can regulate whether cells continue to remain immature and divide (similar to what is observed in cancer), mature normally and stop dividing, or even commit suicide. However, little is known about how beta catenin regulates these many choices cells make. Here, we propose further studies to try to understand how beta catenin regulates cell growth and cell death. By examining how normal brain cells develop and how abnormalities in development can lead to uncontrolled growth, we hope to gain further valuable insight onto the causes of brain cancer.

Accolades

"Anjen is not only an individual of outstanding talent, but he is also a great person to have around. He is intelligent, funny, cheerful, and is a very imaginative and critical thinker and constructive colleague to others in the lab. He is obviously highly motivated and resourceful, with a great deal of initiative and a uniquely original imagination that he can harvest in the design of very original experiments? and [he] has a knack for producing beautiful science with beautiful pictures (that seem to end up on the covers of the best journals.)"

Christopher A. Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School, Boston

"I was impressed during Anjen's first summer in the laboratory with his voracious intellectual appetite and his boundless energy. He struck me as a gifted and ambitious student who would make major contributions to our understanding of neuronal development; indeed, all of my interactions with Anjen over the years have borne out this first impression."

Susan K. McConnell, Ph.D.
Stanford University, CA

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