Matrisian named Vanderbilt's first chair of cancer biology

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has created a new Department of Cancer Biology, its first new basic science department since the establishment of Microbiology and Immunology 45 years ago.

Lynn M. Matrisian, Ph.D., associate director for education in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and internationally recognized researcher in the role of proteolytic enzymes in cancer, has been named as the department's first chair.

The new department, expected to grow over time to about 20 faculty, will begin with a core group of about six faculty from the current department of Cell Biology.

The overarching theme to the research conducted in the Cancer Biology Department will be the communication pathways between cells and their environment, Matrisian said. "The cues that cells take from the environment are often disrupted in cancer, so it provides an excellent place to target therapy and prevention strategies," Matrisian said. "The goal is to re-establish the normal environment -- one way to think of it is to make the cells behave properly through peer pressure from their surroundings."

Dr. Harold Moses, Benjamin F. Byrd Professor of Oncology and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, said establishment of the new department will help the center capitalize on the opportunity to recruit new scientists presented by the ongoing "Imagine A World Without Cancer Campaign." The $100 million fund-raising campaign was launched last year with a gift from the Ingram Charitable Fund. It is designed to support Vanderbilt-Ingram's focus on some of the most promising areas of cancer research.

Many of these new recruits -- though certainly not all -- will be researchers in the area of cell biology/cancer biology, said Moses, who served as chair of Cell Biology from 1985-98. However, as departments grow in size, the ability of chairs to lead and mentor faculty can be seriously diminished, he said. A new department will allow growth in the

Contact: Cynthia Manley
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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