Childhood Cancer Q&A: David Libich, PhD
What are some achievements you’ve made in advancing scientific knowledge relevant to childhood cancer research?
My lab works on Ewing sarcoma, specifically on how the EWS-FLI1 oncogenic fusion protein misfunctions and promotes disease. We apply protein structural and biophysical approaches to understand how this protein interacts with the normal cellular machinery. Since the occurrence of EWS-FLI1 (or similar fusions) is a defining event in Ewing sarcoma tumors, understanding how EWS-FLI1 functions and misfunctions at the atomic level provides a chance to uncover novel therapeutic approaches. We have made strides in identifying how the two parts of the fusion interact with each other and impart new functions in EWS-FLI1.
How will those achievements impact innovative cures for childhood cancer?
Central to pediatric cancer research is the identification and development of targeted, less toxic therapeutics. EWS-FLI1 has long been identified as an Achille’s heel of Ewing sarcoma yet direct targeting of this protein has proven to be extremely difficult. Our overarching goal is that by understanding how EWS-FLI1 functions and interacts with other proteins, we will be able to identify targetable vulnerabilities.
What are some near-future goals you are working towards in your lab?
We have achieved the first phase of this project and will have most of the results published in the coming months. Our next goal is to examine the interactions of EWS-FLI1 with DNA-specific target sequences. We want to identify what is different about EWS-FLI1 that enables it to bind to DNA in the wrong places.