UCLA scientist honored for outstanding contributions to advancing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of cancer

Guillaume Chanfreau

Dr. Guillaume Chanfreau, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine, will receive the American Cancer Society’s Giants of Science Determination Award for his outstanding contributions to the study of the molecular mechanisms that drive cancer. The recognition is bestowed annually on a scientist who has had success in a critical area of continuing cancer research.

Giants of Science honors current research grant recipients whose work has been selected by a national committee for commendation. Chanfreau will accept his honor at the 2017 Giants of Science gala on Saturday, October 14 in Los Angeles, California.

Through an American Cancer Society research grant, Chanfreau’s lab has focused on the study of the molecular mechanisms that regulate the synthesis of ribosomes in eukaryotic cells. Cancer cells have very high needs for proteins due to their rapid rate of division, so they typically increase the synthesis of ribosomes, which produce cellular proteins. Production of the RNA components of the ribosomes by RNA polymerase I is essential for this increased synthesis, and cancer cells frequently show a deregulation of RNA Polymerase I activity to promote higher levels of ribosomal RNAs production.

Chanfreau’s team has discovered that zinc is an important element that controls RNA polymerase I stability, and that decreasing cellular zinc levels lead to degradation of RNA Polymerase I and a strong reduction in ribosomal RNA synthesis. The findings show that RNA polymerase I activity can be tightly regulated by zinc, suggesting potential strategies to perturb cancer cell proliferation by modulating zinc levels and the stability of RNA Polymerase I, Chanfreau said.

In addition to his research, Chanfreau, who is a member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, has a long history of supporting the American Cancer Society. He served for several years as a reviewer of grant applications for the society, and then as chair of one of their review committees.

The American Cancer Society is the nation’s largest not-for-profit investor in cancer research, second only to the federal government. Since 1946, it has funded more than $4.3 billion in cancer research, including the early work of 47 Nobel Prize-winning scientists. In California, the Society currently funds 95 grants totaling almost $48 million, including almost $21 million at five Los Angeles County institutions.