OCT 30, 2014 01:30 PM PDT

Structural Pathways of Cancer

  • Head, Computational Structural Biology Group, Senior Investigator, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
      Dr. Ruth Nussinov is a Professor in the Department of Human Genetics, School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, 69978 Israel, and a Senior Principal Scientist and Principal Investigator at the National Cancer Institute. She has received her B. Sc degree in Microbiology from the University of Washington (Seattle, Washington) and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Rutgers University (NJ). She was a Fellow at the Weizmann Institute, and a visiting scientist at the chemistry department at Berkeley and at the Biochemistry department at Harvard. She joined the Medical School at Tel Aviv University in 1985 as an Associate Professor. In 1990 she became a Full Professor. Her association with the NIH started in 1983, first with the NICHHD and since 1985 with the NCI. Currently, she has a large group of graduate students in Tel Aviv, in collaboration with Prof. H. Wolfson, from the School of Computer Science. Additionally, she has a group at the NCI. She is an author of over 470 scientific papers. Dr. Nussinov's 1978 paper proposed the dynamic programming algorithm for RNA secondary structure prediction (e.g. in wikipedia/encyclopedia/course lectures, etc.)


    Structural pathways are important. They are essential to the understanding of how oncogenic mutations work and to figuring out alternative parallel pathways in drug resistant mutants. Structural pathways also help to understand the inter-relationship among linked phenomena, as in the case of inflammation and cancer. Cell biology provides a global overview of the behavior of the cell, tissue and the organism under different sets of conditions; the structures of single proteins and their coherent interactions provide insight into the dynamic changes in the proteins, such as those taking place through post-translational modifications, binding events and mutations, and into their interactions. Nonetheless, beyond the challenging construction of structural pathways, there is also a need to obtain a mechanistic insight into single proteins, their modifications, interactions and broadly, their changing landscapes. Why is insight into the dynamic landscape of single proteins important? Perceiving proteins. behavior can help to forecast allosteric transitions, and regulation, and it can help relate oncogenic mutations to their constitutive consequences. The talk will largely focus on structural pathways related to cancer, and oncogenic mutations mapped on these to figure out their mechanisms. These are some of the ways through which computational structural biology can help cancer research.

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