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Michael N. Hall

Affiliation(s): Biozentrum, University of Basel

Abstract:

Cancer is a major health problem due to the failure of current therapies to effectively eradicate the disease.  Extensive research over decades has led to the development of therapies that target cancer-specific signaling pathways.  However, tumors escape such therapies by activating compensatory signaling pathways, a process referred to as ‘evasive resistance’.  The identities of the alternative signaling pathways and the functional interconnections that underlie evasive resistance remain widely unknown.  Elucidating mechanisms of evasive resistance is currently a major challenge in cancer research.

We integrate clinical, molecular, and computational sciences to understand the signaling defects that enable tumors to evade therapy.  Within the framework of rigorously designed clinical studies, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tissue is isolated before therapy, during treatment, or at the time of tumor progression.  HCC was chosen as the focal cancer based on medical importance, accessibility to repeated sampling, and ethical considerations.  The tumor tissue is obtained by needle biopsy and immediately snap frozen to preserve in vivo tumor properties.  High- and low-throughput experimental and computational methods are then applied to determine, the underlying signaling defects.  This endeavor will elucidate mechanisms of evasive resistance and will ultimately improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and clinical outcome.  Recent progress in this ambitious project will be described.

Elucidating mechanisms of evasive resistance is currently a major challenge in cancer research.  We integrate clinical, molecular, and computational sciences to understand the signaling defects that enable tumors to evade therapy.  Within the framework of rigorously designed clinical studies, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tissue is isolated before therapy, during treatment, or at the time of tumor progression.  HCC was chosen as the focal cancer based on medical importance, accessibility to repeated sampling, and ethical considerations.  The tumor tissue is obtained by needle biopsy and immediately snap frozen to preserve in vivo tumor properties.  High- and low-throughput experimental and computational methods are then applied to determine, the underlying signaling defects.  This endeavor will elucidate mechanisms of evasive resistance and will ultimately improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and clinical outcome.  Recent progress in this ambitious project will be described.

HCC was chosen as the focal cancer based on medical importance, accessibility to repeated sampling, and ethical considerations.  The tumor tissue is obtained by needle biopsy and immediately snap frozen to preserve in vivo tumor properties.  High- and low-throughput experimental and computational methods are then applied to determine, the underlying signaling defects.  This endeavor will elucidate mechanisms of evasive resistance and will ultimately improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and clinical outcome.  Recent progress in this ambitious project will be described.

Prof Michael N. Hall bio:

Michael-N-HallMichael N. Hall was born (1953) in Puerto Rico and grew up in South America (Venezuela and Peru).  He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Pasteur Institute (Paris, France) and the University of California, San Francisco.

He joined the Biozentrum of the University of Basel (Switzerland) in 1987 where he is currently Professor and former Chair of Biochemistry.  Hall is a pioneer in the fields of TOR signaling and cell growth control.

In 1991, Hall and colleagues discovered TOR (Target of Rapamycin) and subsequently elucidated its role as a central controller of cell growth and metabolism.  TOR is a highly conserved, nutrient- and insulin-activated protein kinase.  The discovery of TOR led to a fundamental change in how one thinks of cell growth.  It is not a spontaneous process that just happens when building blocks (nutrients) are available, but rather a highly regulated, plastic process controlled by TOR-dependent signaling pathways.  As a central controller of cell growth and metabolism, TOR plays a key role in development and aging, and is implicated in disorders such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Hall is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, has received numerous awards, including the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2009), the Marcel Benoist Prize for Sciences or Humanities (2012), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2014), and the Canada Gairdner International Award (2015), and has served on several editorial and scientific advisory boards.

He and his wife Sabine (née Carrère) live in Basel with their daughters Zoé and Léa.