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April 2011

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Upcoming distinguished lecturer Edison Liu

By Eddy Ball
April 2011

Edison Liu, M.D.

Liu has received many awards, including the Brinker International Award and the Rosenthal Award from the American Association for Cancer Research. He is executive editor of the journal Breast Disease(http://www.iospress.nl/html/08886008_ita.html) Exit NIEHS and is a member of several major cancer-related professional societies. (Photo courtesy of Edison Liu)

The 2010-2011 NIEHS Distinguished Lecture Series shifts gears on April 22 when it hosts geneticist Edison Liu, M.D., for a talk on "Systems Biology in Cancer Medicine: Harnessing Complexity" (see text box).

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Liu(http://www.gis.a-star.edu.sg/internet/site/investigators.php?f=cv&user_id=14) Exit NIEHS is the executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore, an international research institute focused on integrating genomic sciences with cell and medical biology. He also serves as the president of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) and holds several academic appointments in Singapore and the U.S.

Liu received his B.S. and M.D. degrees from Stanford University, followed by training at both Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco. This was followed by his nine-year career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Liu developed leukemia and breast cancer research programs, directed the Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Breast Cancer, led the Breast Cancer Program at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and served as chief of the Division of Medical Genetics at the School of Medicine. Liu then moved to the National Cancer Institute, where he served as the scientific director of the Division of Clinical Sciences before moving to his current position at the Genome Institute of Singapore.

Liu describes his work as spanning cancer biology, genomics, human genetics, and molecular epidemiology. Recognized as a top breast cancer researcher, he was a pioneer in investigating the roles of AXL and HER2/ErbB-2 in human breast cancers, and identifying these genes, as well as others, as potential targets for therapeutic intervention.  Liu's recent work centers on the functional genomics and genetics of human cancers utilizing genome-wide systems approaches in deciphering critical signaling pathways.

The talk, which begins at 11:00 a.m. in Rodbell Auditorium, will be hosted by NIEHS Environmental Stress and Cancer Group Principal Investigator Rick Paules, Ph.D. who also serves as the director of the Microarrays Core Facility and acting chief of the Laboratory of Toxicology and Pharmacology.

Liu's abstract - Systems biology in cancer medicine: Harnessing complexity

Genomic medicine involves the provision of medical care that uses the power of genomic knowledge and technologies to resolve complex problems. The fundamental difference between this and older strategies in medicine research is the comprehensiveness and the precision of the analyses afforded by new genomic technologies such as in sequencing, cloning, and genotyping. The new challenge will be the assembly and management of this high volume of data with dimensional complexity. Genomic medicine therefore means computational and systems medicine as well. Systems biology, as a discipline, seeks to explain biologic phenomenon through the net interactions of all cellular and biochemical components within a cell or organism. Operationally, systems biology requires the digitalization of biological output, the computational power to analyze comprehensive and massive datasets, and the capacity to integrate heterogeneous data into a usable knowledge format. 

We will describe how genomic approaches are changing our understanding of cancer, as a model system. Our work, at the Genome Institute of Singapore, in transcriptional profiling has led to transcription factor binding site dynamics and human variations in those binding sites. We have moved to study the consequences of structural mutations in cancer genomes. We employ a strategy of using genomic data to reconstruct systems maps of critical regulatory networks. This integrative approach permits modeling of complex interactions and allowed us to quickly uncover complex mechanisms of drug action. Finally, the ability to sequence cancer genomes in a cost effective manner allows for the identification of unique and private mutations for each individual patient's cancer.

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