Robert J Wechsler-Reya

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States

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Publications (52)687.35 Total impact

  • Oren J Becher, Robert J Wechsler-Reya
    Science 12/2014; 346(6216):1458-1459. DOI:10.1126/science.aaa3814 · 31.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Wnt signaling regulates self-renewal and fate commitment of stem and progenitor cells in development and homeostasis. Leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein coupled receptor 5 (Lgr5) is a co-receptor for Wnt signaling that marks highly proliferative stem and progenitor cells in many epithelial tissue types. Wnt signaling instructs neural developmental and homeostatic processes; however, Lgr5 expression in the developing and adult brain has not been characterized. Here we report that Lgr5 is expressed in the postnatal cerebellum during the maturation and synaptogenesis of cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs), processes controlled by Wnt signaling. Using a transgenic reporter mouse for in vivo Lgr5 expression analysis and lineage tracing, we reveal that Lgr5 specifically identified CGNs and was restricted temporally to the CGN maturation phase within the internal granule layer, but absent in the adult brain. Cells marked by Lgr5 were lineage restricted, post-mitotic and long-lived. The ligand for Lgr5, R-spondin, was secreted in a paracrine fashion that evolved during the maturation of CGNs, which coincided with the Lgr5 expression pattern. Our findings provide potential new insight into the critical regulation of Wnt signaling in the developing cerebellum and support a novel role for Lgr5 in the regulation of post-mitotic cells.
    PLoS ONE 12/2014; DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0114433 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common malignant brain tumor in children, where one-third of patients succumb to their disease. This SnapShot describes the classification of MB subgroups, historically by histopathology and currently based on genomic information. Genomics-based classification has identified four major subgroups and provides greater opportunity for developing targeted therapies more successful than current conventional therapy. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Cancer Cell 12/2014; 26(6):940-940.e1. DOI:10.1016/j.ccell.2014.11.015 · 23.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Medulloblastoma (MB) is a highly malignant brain tumor that occurs primarily in children. Although surgery, radiation and high-dose chemotherapy have led to increased survival, many MB patients still die from their disease, and patients who survive suffer severe long-term side effects as a consequence of treatment. Thus, more effective and less toxic therapies for MB are critically important. Development of such therapies depends in part on identification of genes that are necessary for growth and survival of tumor cells. Survivin is an inhibitor of apoptosis protein that regulates cell cycle progression and resistance to apoptosis, is frequently expressed in human MB and when expressed at high levels predicts poor clinical outcome. Therefore, we hypothesized that Survivin may have a critical role in growth and survival of MB cells and that targeting it may enhance MB therapy. Here we show that Survivin is overexpressed in tumors from patched (Ptch) mutant mice, a model of Sonic hedgehog (SHH)-driven MB. Genetic deletion of survivin in Ptch mutant tumor cells significantly inhibits proliferation and causes cell cycle arrest. Treatment with small-molecule antagonists of Survivin impairs proliferation and survival of both murine and human MB cells. Finally, Survivin antagonists impede growth of MB cells in vivo. These studies highlight the importance of Survivin in SHH-driven MB, and suggest that it may represent a novel therapeutic target in patients with this disease.Oncogene advance online publication, 22 September 2014; doi:10.1038/onc.2014.304.
    Oncogene 09/2014; DOI:10.1038/onc.2014.304 · 8.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant childhood brain tumor, exhibits distinct molecular subtypes and cellular origins. Genetic alterations driving medulloblastoma initiation and progression remain poorly understood. Herein, we identify GNAS, encoding the G protein Gαs, as a potent tumor suppressor gene that, when expressed at low levels, defines a subset of aggressive Sonic hedgehog (SHH)-driven human medulloblastomas. Ablation of the single Gnas gene in anatomically distinct progenitors in mice is sufficient to induce Shh-associated medulloblastomas, which recapitulate their human counterparts. Gαs is highly enriched at the primary cilium of granule neuron precursors and suppresses Shh signaling by regulating both the cAMP-dependent pathway and ciliary trafficking of Hedgehog pathway components. Elevation in levels of a Gαs effector, cAMP, effectively inhibits tumor cell proliferation and progression in Gnas-ablated mice. Thus, our gain- and loss-of-function studies identify a previously unrecognized tumor suppressor function for Gαs that can be found consistently across Shh-group medulloblastomas of disparate cellular and anatomical origins, highlighting G protein modulation as a potential therapeutic avenue.
    Nature Medicine 08/2014; 20(9). DOI:10.1038/nm.3666 · 28.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: METHODS: We used ligand and genetic activation of the Hedgehog pathway to study the effects of BET bromodomain inhibition on Hedgehog pathway transcriptional output. Furthermore, we studied the in vitro and in vivo efficacy of BET bromodomain inhibitors using tumor cells generated from genetically engineered mouse (GEM) and patient derived xenograft models of Hedgehog driven tumors, including a panel of tumors resistant to the current FDA-approved Smoothened antagonists. RESULTS: We show that knockdown of BRD4 or treatment with the BET bromodomain inhibitor, JQ1, dramatically inhibits transcription of GLI1, GLI2 and other Hedgehog target genes upon ligand-mediated or genetic activation of the Hedgehog pathway. We confirm the inhibitory effect of JQ1 occurs downstream of SMO and SUFU and verify by chromatin immunoprecipitation that BRD4 directly occupies the GLI1 and GLI2 promoters with a substantial decrease in the engagement of these genomic sites upon treatment with JQ1. We observe a corresponding downregulation of genes associated with medulloblastoma-specific GLI1 binding sites upon exposure to JQ1, confirming the direct regulation of GLI1 by BET bromodomain proteins. Finally, in patient- and GEM-derived cells of Hedgehog-driven cancer (basal cell carcinoma, medulloblastoma and atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor), we show that JQ1 decreases Hh pathway output and proliferation, even in cells resistant to Smoothened inhibitors. CONCLUSIONS: These results expand the role of BET bromodomain inhibitors to targeting Hedgehog-driven cancers and highlight a strategy that overcomes the limitation of Hedgehog pathway inhibitors currently in clinical use.
    Society for Neuro-Oncology; 07/2014
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    ABSTRACT: Genomics has illuminated the extensive intertumoural heterogeneity of medulloblastoma and identified at least four distinct molecular subgroups of the disease. Group 3 and Group 4 subgroup medulloblastomas account for the majority of pediatric cases, yet, oncogenic drivers for these subtypes remain poorly understood. Exome and genome sequencing studies have confirmed a paucity of recurrent gene-level mutations in Group 3 and Group 4, suggesting that alternative oncogenic mechanisms must account for the large fraction of cases that cannot currently be explained by single-nucleotide variants or insertions/deletions alone.
    Neuro-Oncology 07/2014; 16 Suppl 3:iii24. DOI:10.1093/neuonc/nou208.4 · 5.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Medulloblastoma (MB) is a highly malignant pediatric brain tumor. Despite aggressive therapy, many patients succumb to the disease, and survivors experience severe side effects from treatment. MBs with high levels of the MYC oncogene have a particularly poor prognosis, and would benefit from novel therapies.
    Neuro-Oncology 07/2014; 16 Suppl 3:iii29. DOI:10.1093/neuonc/nou208.22 · 5.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Epigenetic alterations, that is, disruption of DNA methylation and chromatin architecture, are now acknowledged as a universal feature of tumorigenesis. Medulloblastoma, a clinically challenging, malignant childhood brain tumour, is no exception. Despite much progress from recent genomics studies, with recurrent changes identified in each of the four distinct tumour subgroups (WNT-pathway-activated, SHH-pathway-activated, and the less-well-characterized Group 3 and Group 4), many cases still lack an obvious genetic driver. Here we present whole-genome bisulphite-sequencing data from thirty-four human and five murine tumours plus eight human and three murine normal controls, augmented with matched whole-genome, RNA and chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing data. This comprehensive data set allowed us to decipher several features underlying the interplay between the genome, epigenome and transcriptome, and its effects on medulloblastoma pathophysiology. Most notable were highly prevalent regions of hypomethylation correlating with increased gene expression, extending tens of kilobases downstream of transcription start sites. Focal regions of low methylation linked to transcription-factor-binding sites shed light on differential transcriptional networks between subgroups, whereas increased methylation due to re-normalization of repressed chromatin in DNA methylation valleys was positively correlated with gene expression. Large, partially methylated domains affecting up to one-third of the genome showed increased mutation rates and gene silencing in a subgroup-specific fashion. Epigenetic alterations also affected novel medulloblastoma candidate genes (for example, LIN28B), resulting in alternative promoter usage and/or differential messenger RNA/microRNA expression. Analysis of mouse medulloblastoma and precursor-cell methylation demonstrated a somatic origin for many alterations. Our data provide insights into the epigenetic regulation of transcription and genome organization in medulloblastoma pathogenesis, which are probably also of importance in a wider developmental and disease context.
    Nature 05/2014; DOI:10.1038/nature13268 · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Smoothened (SMO) inhibitors recently entered clinical trials for sonic-hedgehog-driven medulloblastoma (SHH-MB). Clinical response is highly variable. To understand the mechanism(s) of primary resistance and identify pathways cooperating with aberrant SHH signaling, we sequenced and profiled a large cohort of SHH-MBs (n = 133). SHH pathway mutations involved PTCH1 (across all age groups), SUFU (infants, including germline), and SMO (adults). Children >3 years old harbored an excess of downstream MYCN and GLI2 amplifications and frequent TP53 mutations, often in the germline, all of which were rare in infants and adults. Functional assays in different SHH-MB xenograft models demonstrated that SHH-MBs harboring a PTCH1 mutation were responsive to SMO inhibition, whereas tumors harboring an SUFU mutation or MYCN amplification were primarily resistant.
    Cancer cell 03/2014; 25(3):393-405. DOI:10.1016/j.ccr.2014.02.004 · 23.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Medulloblastoma comprises four distinct molecular subgroups: WNT, SHH, Group 3, and Group 4. Current medulloblastoma protocols stratify patients based on clinical features: patient age, metastatic stage, extent of resection, and histologic variant. Stark prognostic and genetic differences among the four subgroups suggest that subgroup-specific molecular biomarkers could improve patient prognostication. Molecular biomarkers were identified from a discovery set of 673 medulloblastomas from 43 cities around the world. Combined risk stratification models were designed based on clinical and cytogenetic biomarkers identified by multivariable Cox proportional hazards analyses. Identified biomarkers were tested using fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) on a nonoverlapping medulloblastoma tissue microarray (n = 453), with subsequent validation of the risk stratification models. Subgroup information improves the predictive accuracy of a multivariable survival model compared with clinical biomarkers alone. Most previously published cytogenetic biomarkers are only prognostic within a single medulloblastoma subgroup. Profiling six FISH biomarkers (GLI2, MYC, chromosome 11 [chr11], chr14, 17p, and 17q) on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues, we can reliably and reproducibly identify very low-risk and very high-risk patients within SHH, Group 3, and Group 4 medulloblastomas. Combining subgroup and cytogenetic biomarkers with established clinical biomarkers substantially improves patient prognostication, even in the context of heterogeneous clinical therapies. The prognostic significance of most molecular biomarkers is restricted to a specific subgroup. We have identified a small panel of cytogenetic biomarkers that reliably identifies very high-risk and very low-risk groups of patients, making it an excellent tool for selecting patients for therapy intensification and therapy de-escalation in future clinical trials.
    Journal of Clinical Oncology 02/2014; DOI:10.1200/JCO.2013.50.9539 · 17.88 Impact Factor
  • S. Markant, L. A. Esparza, K. Barton, J. Sun, R. Wechsler-Reya
    Cancer Prevention Research 01/2014; 5(11_Supplement):CN07-02-CN07-02. DOI:10.1158/1940-6207.PREV-12-CN07-02 · 5.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The rhombic lip gives rise to neuronal populations that contribute to cerebellar, proprioceptive and interoceptive networks. Cell production depends on the expression of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor Atoh1. In rhombomere 1, Atoh1-positive cells give rise to both cerebellar neurons and extra-cerebellar nuclei in ventral hindbrain. The origin of this cellular diversity has previously been attributed to temporal signals rather than spatial patterning. Here, we show that in both chick and mouse the cerebellar Atoh1 precursor pool is partitioned into initially cryptic spatial domains that reflect the activity of two different organisers: an isthmic Atoh1 domain, which gives rise to isthmic nuclei, and the rhombic lip, which generates deep cerebellar nuclei and granule cells. We use a combination of in vitro explant culture, genetic fate mapping and gene overexpression and knockdown to explore the role of isthmic signalling in patterning these domains. We show that an FGF-dependent isthmic Atoh1 domain is the origin of distinct populations of Lhx9-positive neurons in the extra-cerebellar isthmic nuclei. In the cerebellum, ectopic FGF induces proliferation while blockade reduces the length of the cerebellar rhombic lip. FGF signalling is not required for the specification of cerebellar cell types from the rhombic lip and its upregulation inhibits their production. This suggests that although the isthmus regulates the size of the cerebellar anlage, the downregulation of isthmic FGF signals is required for induction of rhombic lip-derived cerebellar neurons.
    Development 01/2014; 141(2):389-98. DOI:10.1242/dev.099119 · 6.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: MYC-amplified medulloblastomas are highly lethal tumors. BET bromodomain inhibition has recently been shown to suppress MYC-associated transcriptional activity in other cancers. The compound JQ1 inhibits BET bromodomain-containing proteins, including BRD4. Here we investigate BET bromodomain targeting for the treatment of MYC-amplified medulloblastoma. We evaluated the effects of genetic and pharmacological inhibition of BET bromodomains on proliferation, cell cycle, and apoptosis in established and newly generated patient- and GEMM-derived medulloblastoma cell lines and xenografts that harbored amplifications of MYC or MYCN. We also assessed the effect of JQ1 on MYC expression and global MYC-associated transcriptional activity. We assessed in vivo efficacy of JQ1 in orthotopic xenografts established in immunocompromised mice. Treatment of MYC-amplified medulloblastoma cells with JQ1 decreased cell viability associated with arrest at G1 and apoptosis. We observed down-regulation of MYC expression and confirmed inhibition of MYC-associated transcriptional targets. Exogenous expression of MYC from a retroviral promoter reduced the effect of JQ1 on cell viability, suggesting that attenuated levels of MYC contribute to the functional effects of JQ1. JQ1 significantly prolonged survival of orthotopic xenograft models of MYC-amplified medulloblastoma (p<0.001). Xenografts harvested from mice after five doses of JQ1 had reduced expression of MYC mRNA and a reduced proliferative index. JQ1 suppresses MYC expression and MYC-associated transcriptional activity in medulloblastomas, resulting in an overall decrease in medulloblastoma cell viability. These preclinical findings highlight the promise of BET bromodomain inhibitors as novel agents for MYC-amplified medulloblastoma.
    Clinical Cancer Research 12/2013; 20(4). DOI:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-2281 · 8.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) promoter mutations were recently shown to drive telomerase activity in various cancer types, including medulloblastoma. However, the clinical and biological implications of TERT mutations in medulloblastoma have not been described. Hence, we sought to describe these mutations and their impact in a subgroup-specific manner. We analyzed the TERT promoter by direct sequencing and genotyping in 466 medulloblastomas. The mutational distributions were determined according to subgroup affiliation, demographics, and clinical, prognostic, and molecular features. Integrated genomics approaches were used to identify specific somatic copy number alterations in TERT promoter-mutated and wild-type tumors. Overall, TERT promoter mutations were identified in 21 % of medulloblastomas. Strikingly, the highest frequencies of TERT mutations were observed in SHH (83 %; 55/66) and WNT (31 %; 4/13) medulloblastomas derived from adult patients. Group 3 and Group 4 harbored this alteration in <5 % of cases and showed no association with increased patient age. The prognostic implications of these mutations were highly subgroup-specific. TERT mutations identified a subset with good and poor prognosis in SHH and Group 4 tumors, respectively. Monosomy 6 was mostly restricted to WNT tumors without TERT mutations. Hallmark SHH focal copy number aberrations and chromosome 10q deletion were mutually exclusive with TERT mutations within SHH tumors. TERT promoter mutations are the most common recurrent somatic point mutation in medulloblastoma, and are very highly enriched in adult SHH and WNT tumors. TERT mutations define a subset of SHH medulloblastoma with distinct demographics, cytogenetics, and outcomes.
    Acta Neuropathologica 10/2013; 126(6). DOI:10.1007/s00401-013-1198-2 · 9.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It is generally believed that cerebellar granule neurons originate exclusively from granule neuron precursors (GNPs) in the external germinal layer (EGL). Here we identified a rare population of neuronal progenitors in mouse developing cerebellum that expresses Nestin. Although Nestin is widely considered a marker for multipotent stem cells, these Nestin-expressing progenitors (NEPs) are committed to the granule neuron lineage. Unlike conventional GNPs, which reside in the outer EGL and proliferate extensively, NEPs reside in the deep part of the EGL and are quiescent. Expression profiling revealed that NEPs are distinct from GNPs and, in particular, express markedly reduced levels of genes associated with DNA repair. Consistent with this, upon aberrant activation of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling, NEPs exhibited more severe genomic instability and gave rise to tumors more efficiently than GNPs. These studies revealed a previously unidentified progenitor for cerebellar granule neurons and a cell of origin for medulloblastoma.
    Nature Neuroscience 10/2013; DOI:10.1038/nn.3553 · 14.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common malignant brain tumor in children. While aggressive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy have improved outcomes, survivors suffer severe long-term side effects, and many patients still succumb to their disease. For patients whose tumors are driven by mutations in the Sonic hedgehog (SHH) pathway, SHH antagonists offer some hope. However, many SHH-associated MBs do not respond to these drugs, and those that do may develop resistance. Therefore, more effective treatment strategies are needed for both SHH and non-SHH-associated MB. One such strategy involves targeting the cells that are critical for maintaining tumor growth, known as tumor-propagating cells (TPCs). We previously identified a population of TPCs in tumors from patched mutant mice, a model for SHH-dependent MB. These cells express the surface antigen CD15/SSEA-1 and have elevated levels of genes associated with the G2/M phases of the cell cycle. Here, we show that CD15+ cells progress more rapidly through the cell cycle than CD15- cells and contain an increased proportion of cells in G2/M, suggesting that they might be vulnerable to inhibitors of this phase. Indeed, exposure of tumor cells to inhibitors of Aurora and Polo-like kinases, key regulators of G2/M, induces cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and enhanced sensitivity to conventional chemotherapy. Moreover, treatment of tumor-bearing mice with these agents significantly inhibits tumor progression. Importantly, cells from human patient-derived MB xenografts are also sensitive to Aurora and Polo-like kinase inhibitors. Our findings suggest that targeting G2/M regulators may represent a novel approach for treatment of human MB.
    Cancer Research 09/2013; 73(20). DOI:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-4258 · 9.28 Impact Factor
  • S. Markant, L. A. Esparza, K. Barton, J. Sun, R. Wechsler-Reya
    Clinical Cancer Research 03/2013; 18(10_Supplement):B46-B46. DOI:10.1158/1078-0432.MECHRES-B46 · 8.19 Impact Factor
  • Jun Wang, Robert J Wechsler-Reya
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    ABSTRACT: Cancer results from dysregulation of growth and survival pathways in normal stem cells and progenitors. Identifying the cells from which a tumor arises can facilitate the development of animal models and point to novel targets for therapy. Medulloblastoma is an aggressive tumor of the cerebellum that occurs predominantly in children. Recent genomic studies suggest that medulloblastoma consists of 4 major subgroups, each with distinct mutations and signaling pathway deregulations, and each potentially arising from distinct populations of stem cells and progenitors. Here we review the major types of progenitor cells in the cerebellum and discuss their role in the genesis of medulloblastoma.
    Experimental Neurology 11/2012; DOI:10.1016/j.expneurol.2012.11.014 · 4.62 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cerebellar granule neurons are the most abundant neurons in the brain, and a critical element of the circuitry that controls motor coordination and learning. In addition, granule neuron precursors (GNPs) are thought to represent cells of origin for medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children. Thus, understanding the signals that control the growth and differentiation of these cells has important implications for neurobiology and neurooncology. Our previous studies have shown that proliferation of GNPs is regulated by Sonic hedgehog (Shh), and that aberrant activation of the Shh pathway can lead to medulloblastoma. Moreover, we have demonstrated that Shh-dependent proliferation of GNPs and medulloblastoma cells can be blocked by basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). But while the mitogenic effects of Shh signaling have been confirmed in vivo, the inhibitory effects of bFGF have primarily been studied in culture. Here, we demonstrate that mice lacking FGF signaling in GNPs exhibit no discernable changes in GNP proliferation or differentiation. In contrast, activation of FGF signaling has a potent effect on tumor growth: treatment of medulloblastoma cells with bFGF prevents them from forming tumors following transplantation, and inoculation of tumor-bearing mice with bFGF markedly inhibits tumor growth in vivo. These results suggest that activators of FGF signaling may be useful for targeting medulloblastoma and other Shh-dependent tumors.Oncogene advance online publication, 8 October 2012; doi:10.1038/onc.2012.440.
    Oncogene 10/2012; 32(35). DOI:10.1038/onc.2012.440 · 8.56 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
687.35 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2014
    • Stanford University
      Palo Alto, California, United States
  • 2010–2014
    • Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
      • Tumor Development Research Program
      لا هویا, California, United States
    • Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin
      Berlín, Berlin, Germany
  • 2002–2014
    • Duke University
      Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • 2012–2013
    • SickKids
      • Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre (BTRC)
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2004–2012
    • Duke University Medical Center
      • Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
      Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • 1999–2001
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States