Drs. Laura Buttitta and Tom Edwards, postdoctoral researchers in the Basic Sciences Division, are among 17 scientists in the country to receive postdoctoral fellowships from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. The fellowships provide more than $130,000 for salary and expenses during a three-year period.
Buttitta, who is conducting her research in Dr. Bruce Edgar's laboratory, uses the fruit fly Drosophila as a model system to understand the link between the control of cell division to cancer. Most cancers develop in adult tissues in which the majority of cells have halted cell division. Because uncontrolled cell division is a hallmark of cancer, a potential cause of cancer may be the inability of adult cells to exit or maintain exit from the cell division process. Buttitta studies normal exit-process control during fruit fly development in order to understand the conditions that can cause it to become abnormal.
Edwards, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Adrian Ferr?-D'Amar?'s lab, studies a recently discovered and unusual mechanism used by microorganisms to control gene activity. In some bacteria and fungi, small RNA molecules called "riboswitches" have been found to play a role in gene expression and are thought to represent the oldest known mechanism of gene regulation. Edwards' work focuses on using X-ray crystallography to determine the three-dimensional structure of riboswitches to better understand how they function in gene regulation.
Since its founding in 1946, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has focused on identifying and encouraging scientists early in their career to commit themselves to cancer research.