TGen News & Press Releases : TGen discovers genetic mutation that causes the appearance of premature aging and severe loss of fat in children

Award acknowledges her groundbreaking work in melanoma genetics

Phoenix, AZ, December 18, 2006--Dr. Pamela Pollock, head of TGen's Melanoma Research Unit, received the Young Investigator Award 2006 from the Society of Melanoma Research. Dr. Pollock was honored for her groundbreaking studies in the genetics of mouse and human melanoma. Dr. Pollock shares this award with Dr. Ashani Weeraratna, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging, who was also honored for her contributions to melanoma research.

TGen's Dr. Pamela Pollock (right) and the NIH's Dr. Ashani Weeraratna (left) accept the Young Investigator Award 2006 of the Society of Melanoma Research from Dr. Meenhard Herlyn, President of the Society (center).

Dr. Pollock began her scientific career at the Queensland Institute for Biological Research in Brisbane, Australia, followed by post-doctoral training at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.

Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer, responsible for 80% of all skin cancer deaths. Although science and medicine have made tremendous strides in the early detection of melanoma, the disease still claims tens of thousands of lives each year.

According to Anja Bosserhoff, a member of the Awards Committee of the Society for Melanoma Research, Dr. Pollock's discovery that a melanoma gene called BRAF is already mutated in benign nevi had an enormous impact in the field because this is the first bona fide oncogene in non-malignant lesions. Similarly, her work on the identification of GRM1, a glutamate receptor as the transforming oncogene in a transgenic mouse model of melanoma was a very surprising and novel finding that has excited the field.

Dr. Pollock and her team of researchers at TGen are working with a gene called FGFR2. She has shown that this gene is involved in multiple signaling pathways that control a number of activities that happen inside a skin cell (called a melanocyte) such as telling it when to divide or when to move. Previous research indicates that a mutation of the FGFR2 gene causes melanoma in 12-13% of cells grown in the lab. Dr. Pollock's lab is conducting a number of studies to figure out the role FGFR2 plays in the initiation and progression of melanoma.

"The award was a real surprise," said Dr. Pollock. "It's definitely an honor to be recognized by your peers. I am currently studying a new gene important in a subset of melanomas and this award certainly gives me a boost to continue to understand the complex role it plays in melanoma."

Dr. Pollock accepted her award at the Third International Melanoma Research Congress held in Amsterdam.

"Dr. Pollock is a passionate and dedicated melanoma investigator," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, president and scientific director of TGen. "I have known Dr. Pollock for many years and it is rewarding to see her hard work and determination recognized by the Society of Melanoma Research."

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About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, is focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen's research is based on personalized medicine and the institute plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.

Media Contact:
Amy Erickson
TGen
(602) 343-8522
[email protected]


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