Duojia Pan Awarded Paul Marks Prize for Innovation in Cancer Research
Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center has recognized Duojia “DJ” Pan, Ph.D., as one of this year’s winners of the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, an award for those aged 45 years or younger who are furthering our understanding of cancer. Pan, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is among three recipients of this year’s prize. He will receive $50,000 and will join the other winners to speak about his research at a symposium on Dec. 5.
“It is terrific to see DJ’s pioneering work recognized in this way,” said Carol Greider, Ph.D., Daniel Nathans Professor and director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “His insights into fundamental cell signaling pathways have had a major impact on our understanding of cancer growth.”
Pan’s research addresses organ growth, and what enables organs to sense whether their size and shape are optimal. Because unregulated growth often leads to tumor growth, Pan also studies the development of cancer on an organismal level. Using the fruit fly Drosophila and mice as experimental models, Pan and his team have spent the last 10 years studying genes that regulate organ growth. This analysis led to the discovery of the Hippo signaling pathway, a central mechanism that regulates tissue growth in animals ranging from insects to humans. In the absence of the hippo gene, flies and mice develop massively enlarged organs.
“I’m honored to be a recipient of this award, which recognizes the hard work and team efforts by all the past and current members of my laboratory. I am grateful for my mentors, colleagues and collaborators for their longstanding support and encouragement,” said Pan.
Going forward, Pan plans to focus on understanding the physiological signals that control the Hippo pathway during normal development. He hopes that insights into that pathway will ultimately lead to new approaches to cancer research and therapy.
--Olivia de Raadt-St. James