The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation has awarded two grants totaling $1.35 million to David Pellman, MD, and Philip Kranzusch, PhD, to advance promising studies in basic, discovery science at Dana-Farber that could lead to the development of new cancer therapeutics.
Previous studies funded by The Mathers Foundation led to Pellman’s discovery that certain errors arising during cell division cause large-scale genetic abnormalities that help drive cancer evolution, and cellular forces similar to those involved in muscle contraction play a key role in these events. Now, a $750,000 grant from The Mathers Foundation will allow him to explore how these same contractile forces affect the proteins that bind to DNA to help govern global gene expression, cell division, and other cellular processes.
“The concept that mechanical tension within the cell could affect DNA packaging and gene expression is appealing and could help us better understand how cancers develop,” said Pellman, who is the Margaret M. Dyson Professor of Pediatric Oncology. “Ongoing support from The Mathers Foundation will allow us to explore this idea, which could change our fundamental understanding of how chromatin alterations occur during tumor development.”
Kranzusch’s research focuses on molecular messengers that regulate how cells respond to pathogens. One such messenger produced by the enzyme cGAS enables infected cells to trigger an ancient cellular defense mechanism known as the innate immune response, which entices the immune system to eliminate pathogens as well as cancer cells. Kranzusch has discovered thousands of proteins similar to cGAS that control antiviral immunity in bacteria and animal cells. With a $600,000 grant from The Mathers Foundation, he will study the molecular messengers produced by these enzymes and determine how to manipulate them to induce cancer-fighting immune responses.
“Support from The Mathers Foundation will allow our lab to develop new approaches to explain how bacterial and animal cells sense and respond to these molecular messengers,” said Kranzusch. “Findings from this research have the potential to fill key gaps in our knowledge about how innate immunity functions to protect from viral infection and cancer.”
Established in 1982, The Mathers Foundation has granted more than $350 million to support research aimed at advancing knowledge in the life sciences. Recognizing that truly transformative breakthroughs usually occur when investigators gain a thorough understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying natural phenomena, the foundation mainly funds basic scientific research with an eye toward translating foundational discoveries into new treatments for patients—aligning with The Dana-Farber Campaign’s strategic priority of advancing discovery science.
“The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation is pleased to support cutting-edge scientific research that may make a difference in patients’ lives,” said the foundation’s Director of Operations Zach Handelman. “We have found a trusted partner in Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.”