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David Pellman, MD
David Pellman, MD, a pediatric oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer
Institute and Children's Hospital Boston, is one of 56 scientists just
selected as an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
(HHMI), a non-profit medical research organization that ranks as one of
the nation's largest philanthropies. Highly sought after, HHMI
appointments provide creative biomedical scientists with the opportunity
to tackle their most ambitious, risky research plans. Pellman was
chosen from among 1,070 applications submitted in a nationwide
competition. Overall, HHMI is committing more than $600 million to
support the 56 new investigators' first five-year terms.
Pellman, in his laboratory at Dana-Farber, conducts basic research in
cancer, studying aneuploidy, a condition in which a cell has too many
or too few chromosomes. Aneuploidy is known to be an important
prognostic factor in such cancers as childhood leukemia and
neuroblastoma. Working with yeast and mouse models, Pellman and
colleagues are investigating how aneuploidy occurs as a result of errors
in mitosis, or cell division, and how aneuploidy leads to genome
instability (an increased tendency to develop gene mutations) and
ultimately to cancer. The team recently showed that polyploidy, or
increased sets of chromosomes in a cell, increases the likelihood that
specific gene mutations will lead to cancer — an old idea that had never
been tested and demonstrated directly.
Pellman hopes to develop new treatment approaches that exploit the
biological differences between normal and aneuploid cells, since
aneuploid cells may be vulnerable to drugs that aren't harmful to normal
cells or tissues.
The HHMI appointment will allow Pellman to dig more deeply into the
effects of aneuploidy, polyploidy and make the needed connections to
human cancer. Appointment as an HHMI investigator provides a level of
support much greater than a research grant for an individual project —
giving a rare freedom to explore and follow ideas through to fruition —
even if that process takes many years.
After medical school at the University of Chicago, Pellman completed
his medical internship and residency at Children's Hospital Boston in
the 1980s. He did research fellowships in cell division and yeast
genetics at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, while
holding appointments in oncology at Children's and Dana-Farber. He
returned to complete his clinical oncology training and join the faculty
in the Department of Pediatric Oncology at Children's and Dana-Farber
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org)
is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is
among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States.
It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center
(DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National
Children's Hospital Boston is home to the world's largest research
enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries
have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 500
scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences,
11 members of the Institute of Medicine and 12 members of the Howard
Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. Founded
as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is a
397-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care
grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to
the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Children's
also is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical
School. For more information about the hospital and its research visit: www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a non-profit medical research
organization that ranks as one of the nation's largest philanthropies,
plays a powerful role in advancing biomedical research and science
education in the United States. In the past two decades HHMI has made
investments of more than $8.3 billion for the support, training, and
education of the nation's most creative and promising scientists.