An investigator recruited to the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in 2015, working as a project leader on the UNMC Center for Molecular Target Discovery and Development (CMTDD) COBRE, has demonstrated a key role in tumor development in an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The finding presents a potential therapeutic target for this deadly cancer, and also helped lead to a prestigious early-career award from the American Society of Hematology (ASH).
Shannon Buckley, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy, was recently selected to receive a 2021 ASH Scholar Award, which financially supports fellows and junior faculty dedicated to careers in hematology research as they transition from training programs to careers as independent investigators.
She and her team also published a high-impact paper on their project in the journal Blood.
Her lab strives to understand the role of mutations in mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Though rare, MCL has the worst survival rate among lymphomas.
The Buckley lab's goal is to lead to novel therapeutic targets for drug discovery.
Dr. Buckley believes they may have done so: "Our work has demonstrated a key role of UBR5 in B cell development," she said. "When UBR5 is mutated in mantle cell lymphoma, this block in differentiation of B cells at the tumor population can lead to tumor development."
In more lay terms, "If we know what the mutation is doing," to contribute to the development of cancer, Dr. Buckley said, "we can hopefully figure out how to target it."
This type of basic research is often the first building block toward bedside treatments that make a difference for real people who are going through tough times in their lives.
And the ASH award will be crucial to keeping that type of work going.
"When you're beginning your research career, receiving funding from an organization like ASH not only provides the necessary support to pursue your goals but it also instills confidence that your work is worthwhile," said 2021 ASH President Martin Tallman, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Dr. Buckley also credited UNMC's one-of-a-kind Lymphoma Tissue Bank as an invaluable resource during the project.
She hadn't known they would make such a significant finding, when they began the study, Dr. Buckley said. But, this was the kind of impactful work she came to UNMC to do.
Dr. Buckley on behalf of The Child Health Research Institute, we congratulate you on this honor!