Komen-funded researcher focused on mammary gland stem cells found on some of the most lethal forms of breast cancer to detect an early diagnosis and develop innovative therapeutic strategies.
• B.A., Bacteriology, UCLA
• Ph.D., Biological Chemistry, Harvard University
• Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University
• American Men and Women Of Science
• “Citation Classic” Designation for One of the Most Highly Cited Scientific Papers, 1961-1982
• President, American Association for Cancer Research, 2006-07
• American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, 2008
• Susan G. Komen Scholar, 2010
• Scientific Advisory Board, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
• Fellow, American Association for Cancer Research, 2013
• Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), 2014
Geoffrey M. Wahl, the Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair, is a Salk Insitute professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory, an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego in the Department of Biology, and a past- president of the American Association for Cancer Research (2007-Present).
Three cancer relevant projects are currently being pursued in the Wahl lab. The first project focuses on developing technologies for identifying drugs able to disrupt cancer pathways by interfering with specific protein interactions. As most cellular functions require molecular machines comprising multiple proteins, having strategies to rapidly identify molecules that destabilize protein interactions presents a huge opportunity for developing new classes of therapeutic agents.
The second project involves pancreatic cancer, a deadly cancer with a five year survival rateof only 5%. This project involves a collaboration with the labs of Salk professors Tony Hunter and Ron Evans to attack one of the most difficult challenges presented by pancreatic cancers: disrupting the protective meshwork that encases them and that prevents therapies from getting to the cancer cells. The goal of this work is to develop strategies to reduce the protective layer to the extent necessary to enable more effective drug treatments to be implemented, and to use molecular, cellular, and bioinformatic approaches to derive more effective therapeutic strategies.
The third project deals with breast cancer and, specifically, the cells that either originate or contribute to the development of some of the most lethal forms of breast cancer. The Wahl lab isolated and characterized the stem cells that are generated in the embryo and that are destined to form the mammary gland of the adult. They found that the genes expressed in these normal embryonic breast stem cells are also present in some of the most lethal human breast cancers. The lab is now interrogating these cells to develop probes for early diagnosis and to generate new personalized therapeutic strategies for cancers where no such approaches currently exist.
About the Salk Institute Cancer Center
The Cancer Center at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies was established in 1970 and two years later, the Salk Institute Cancer Center became one of the first National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated basic research cancer centers in the United States. This designation recognizes the Institute’s scientific rigor across its laboratory research, scientific discoveries and therapeutic cures. The Salk Institute Cancer Center led by Dr. Reuben Shaw, comprises half of the research at the Salk Institute including 32 faculty members, 199 postdoctoral researchers, 41 graduate students and 101 research assistants.