Reuben Shaw, PhD
Salk Institute for Biological Studies Professor Reuben Shaw, PhD, has received the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award, which encourages cancer research with breakthrough potential. Dr. Shaw, a member of Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and holder of the William R. -Brody Chair, will receive $4.2 million in direct funding over the next 7 years to further his work. The award is granted, according to the NCI website, to innovative cancer researchers with outstanding records of productivity to allow them to take greater risks and be more adventurous in their research.
“It was extremely exciting to get this award, as it will provide my lab both the resources and the stability for our ongoing efforts,” said Dr. Shaw, who is also Director of the Salk Cancer Center—one of seven NCI-designated Basic Research Cancer Centers in the country.
Dr. Shaw’s research focuses on cancer metabolism: how metabolic pathways are altered in cancer and play a role in the origins and progression of the disease. While investigating one of the most commonly mutated genes in lung cancer, Dr. Shaw discovered an energy-sensing pathway that shuts down cell growth and reprograms metabolism when nutrients are scarce. This energy-sensing “starvation” pathway suggests an unexpected and direct link between metabolic pathways and cancer.
We want to identify the Achilles heel of each tumor subset. We’re not going to treat all lung cancers the same way, but rather tailor our attacks based on unique properties of each subtype of cancer.— Reuben Shaw, PhD
His lab went on to molecularly decode a number of new components of this cellular starvation pathway, which connects nutrition and exercise to suppression of both cancer and diabetes. From this work, the lab’s studies have led to the discovery of new therapies for cancer and metabolic diseases. Recently, Dr. Shaw’s lab showed that using a small molecule to target one of the pathways that cells use to synthesize fat can starve cancer cells of the building blocks they need to grow. Previously, he published work showing how different cancers are sensitive to different sources of cellular energy and how a common lung cancer spreads.
Some of the ongoing efforts in Dr. Shaw’s lab have involved identifying unique metabolic features of tumor cells. He wants to better define different genetic subsets of lung cancer by these features and pinpoint ways to treat them based on that knowledge.
“We want to identify the Achilles heel of each tumor subset,” Dr. Shaw explained. “We’re not going to treat all lung cancers the same way, but rather tailor our attacks based on unique properties of each subtype of cancer. This should yield more effective treatments for all forms of cancer. Our work decoding new components of the energy-sensing pathway has also led to new therapeutic targets for many different forms of cancer, which alter these same pathways through many different mechanisms.” ■