Sponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School’s Graduate Education Advancement Board, the Impact Awards recognize graduate students whose research provides special benefits to the citizens of North Carolina. That impact can be basic as well as applied. It can have a direct impact on the citizens of North Carolina (and beyond) or a more indirect impact through new knowledge or insights gained, educational, economic, health, social and cultural, or environmental effects that will be derived from the research endeavor.
Jin Hyup Lee, doctoral student of Biochemistry & Biophysics, is currently working on "Treating Cancer by Tinkering with the Clock E" in the lab of Dr. Aziz Sancar, Distinguished Professor Biochemistry & Biophysics. Lee's research lends support for the development of drugs as targeted therapies for the treatment of cancers with dysfunctional p53 protein, which has the potential to improve the health of citizens in North Carolina and beyond.
Treating Cancer by Tinkering with the Clock E
Cancer is the leading cause of death in North Carolina, and death rates from cancer have been escalating since the early 1980s. One of the most significant advances in cancer prevention and treatment in recent years has been recognition of the importance of apoptosis, or programmed cell death, which provides new opportunities for the discovery of cancer therapeutic targets and agents. The protein tumor suppressor p53 plays a critical role in apoptosis induced by anticancer drugs; however, at least 50 percent of human cancers lack functional p53. Lee discovered that disrupting the circadian clock—the major regulatory system that ensures proper adaptation to the constantly changing environment—functionally activates the p73 tumor suppressor protein, which induces cell death in p53-deficient cancer cells. His study indicates that this mechanism provides another way to overcome the resistance to apoptosis of cancer cells selectively.