UCLA post-doctoral scholar receives award to search for genetic clues to predict prostate cancer aggressiveness

Award winner Roni Haas
Roni Haas, PhD.

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David Sampson

Roni Haas, PhD, postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Paul Boutros has received the 2022 Todd Boehly-PCF Young Investigator Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The award will support Haas’s prostate cancer research project, Associating Germline Variants with Prostate Tumor Evolution and Lethality, at total of $225,000 over three years.

Prostate cancer is one of the most heritable types of cancer, with more than half (~57%) of the risk of developing the disease defined by inherited genetic variants. These variants differ dramatically across populations and are associated with clinical and therapeutic outcomes in ways that are difficult to predict. Uncovering the precise contributions of inherited genetic variants to prostate cancer development is critical for advancing patient management.

Dr. Roni Haas is studying how genetic variants contribute to prostate cancer biology.  Her proposal aims to develop a novel bioinformatic framework to map genetic variants to hallmark biological functions in cancer development and progression. This framework will include methods to predict the genetic component of pathway activities and link them to prostate cancer aggressiveness.

In addition, her team will investigate the relationships between genetic variants and cancer DNA methylation in advanced prostate cancer. DNA methylation is a type of epigenetic mechanism in which chemical marks on the DNA regulate gene expression. These chemical marks determine whether genes in a given region can be expressed or not by changing the ability of proteins to interact with the DNA.

The study is anticipated to provide a platform for the development of novel prognostic biomarkers for early detection and prediction of patient outcomes as well as potential new targets for therapy. Haas hopes this will advance personalized clinical management in patients with prostate cancer. Her mentor for the project is Paul Boutros, PhD, MBA.

Read more about the PCF Young Investigator Awards here: https://www.pcf.org/science-impact/the-work-we-fund/young-investigator-awards/.