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Checking in with Past YIA Recipient Sohail Tavazoie, MD, PhD

Feb 13, 2012

ASCO Connection recently followed up with 2009 Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF) of ASCO Young Investigator Award (YIA) recipient Sohail Tavazoie, MD, PhD, of Rockefeller University. The YIA provides research funding to young oncologists who are completing their training in order to help them transition to a faculty appointment. Dr. Tavazoie’s Young Investigator Award was supported by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

In the Q&A that follows, Dr. Tavazoie provides an update on his research project, “MicroRNA-335 inhibits tumor re-initiation and is silenced through genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in human breast cancer.”

Dr. Sohail Tavazoie
AC: What were the outcomes of your research?
Dr. Tavazoie: We found that the metastasis suppressor microRNA miR-335, which was the first metastasis suppressor discovered, is inactivated in human breast cancers through a combination of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. miR-335 is deleted in more than 10% of women's breast cancers, and the remaining copy of the miR-335 locus is silenced through promoter hypermethylation in metastatic cells. Additionally, we found that this miRNA suppresses tumor re-initiation without inhibiting breast cancer proliferation or tumor growth.
AC: How has the CCF/AACR-sponsored Young Investigator Award impacted your career?
Dr. Tavazoie: In a time when obtaining governmental funding for new and unconventional ideas is difficult, this award funded the early phase of my research career. Additionally, it has allowed me to forge collaborations with investigators at my previous institution, such as [2012-2013 ASCO President-Elect] Clifford Hudis, MD, and [2001-2002 ASCO President] Larry Norton, both of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

AC: What are you currently working on?
Dr. Tavazoie: We are discovering metastasis-promoting pathways regulated by key metastasis suppressors that we identified in breast cancer. We are characterizing their molecular mechanisms of action as well as their cell-biological properties.

AC: Do you have any advice for an early-career oncologist selecting a track or specialty?
Dr. Tavazoie: Pursue what you love in oncology as well as in a specialty. Life is short. Always get involved with that which makes you happiest.

AC: Why did you pick research over practice?
Dr. Tavazoie: I'm fascinated by the unknown as well as the possibility of contributing to the discovery of novel drugs that may change the therapeutic landscape.
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