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Dr. Neville Sanjana Receives 2017 Melanoma Research Alliance Young Investigator Award and 2017 Kimmel Scholar Award

April 19, 2017

Dr. Neville Sanjana, Core Faculty Member at the New York Genome Center and Assistant Professor in the Departments of Biology, Neuroscience and Physiology at New York University, has received a 2017 Melanoma Research Alliance Young Investigator Award and a 2017 Kimmel Scholar Award to fund the lab’s work in leveraging the gene-editing tool CRISPR to comprehensively survey mutations that allow cancer cells to resist immunotherapy treatment.

Support of this research comes at a critical time with melanoma rates rising dramatically, outpacing almost all other cancers. Today, it is one of the most common cancers found among young women ages 25 to 29. The survival rate for patients diagnosed with stage IV is only 15-20 percent. Immunotherapy, which supplements and encourages the body’s own immune system to attack cancer, was the first treatment of any kind ever to extend survival in metastatic melanoma. In some cases, however, melanoma cancer cells do not respond at all to immunotherapy and in others develop resistance to the treatment due to melanoma’s high rate of mutation.

Using high-throughput CRISPR screens, the Sanjana Lab will explore and study thousands of genetic mutations related to melanoma tumor resistance in a fraction of the time it would take to do this individually. Targeted DNA manipulation will allow for parallel editing of each individual gene in a genome, noncoding regions around a single gene of interest or a subset of genes. The resulting pool of engineered cells can be tested for virtually any biological phenotype to enable functional discoveries.

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