Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund Fellowship Award
Andrew Weems was recently selected as a Fellow of the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research. One of the most prestigious fellowships available to postdoctoral biomedical researchers, the fund provides three years of support for the brightest young cancer researchers at a critical stage of career growth. Several past Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates in physiology, medicine and chemistry.
Andrew’s work is focused on how the relationship between cell shape and cancer cell signaling affects metastatic potential. Many metastatic melanoma cells are covered in large "blebs": balloon-shaped protrusions generated by a cell's internal pressure. When Andrew joined the Danuser lab in the Fall of 2017, his colleagues had recently begun to observe that “blebby” regions of these cells’ membranes were hotbeds of signaling activity for pathways important to cell survival, and that physically inhibiting bleb formation somehow disrupts this signaling activity.
Curious as to how blebbing might enable this signaling, Andrew discovered that a family of proteins capable of sensing the shape of blebby membranes might be orchestrating survival signaling in a bleb-dependent manner. Elucidating this relationship between cell shape and cell signaling may lead to specific, targeted cancer therapies capable of disrupting the metastatic process.