Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Scholar
A University of Illinois at Chicago cancer researcher who studies cell proliferation in fruit flies has been named a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Scholar
(Left: Loss of the RB pathway gives rise to the appearance of poorly differentiated tumors in the adult fly.)
Maxim Frolov assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics in the UIC College of Medicine will receive a five-year award of $110,000 per year. The society's Career Development Program funds investigators at various stages of their careers who are chosen for independent, sustained, original investigation of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
Frolov's research centers on a tumor-suppressor pathway called the retinoblastoma pathway, which plays a central role in regulating cell proliferation. The majority of signals that instruct the cell to stop dividing are ultimately routed through the RB pathway.
(Left: Inactivation of the RB pathway leads to progressive loss of neuronal cells (red and blue) in the larval eye. Wild type larval eye is on the left, RB mutant larval eye is on the right.)
"The loss of this control seems to be a starting point for the unconstrained growth of cancer cells," Frolov says. This helps to explain why in nearly all cancers the RB pathway is inactivated.
Frolov studies the RB pathway in fruit flies. "The pathway is highly conserved over the course of evolution and is similar in flies and humans," he said.
"I'm pleased and proud that the society sees the value of supporting my work on this model system," Frolov said. The society's grants are usually made for research closer to clinical application than his basic science research.
Recently, Frolov's laboratory made an unexpected discovery. His research group found that interfering with the RB pathway not only led to uncontrolled proliferation, but caused the cells to alter their function, becoming less specialized. The findings were published in the April 2010 issue of PLoS Genetics
Loss of specialization, or "de-differentiation," is a characteristic of the most aggressive cancers. His laboratory is now investigating why inactivation of the RB pathway results in de-differentiation.
Based in White Plains, N.Y., the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services. Since 1954 the society has awarded more than $680 million in research funding.