Chao Lu Wins Award Supporting Leading Junior Faculty Research

Chao Lu, PhD, assistant professor of genetics & development at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), has received the Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award, an annual prize given to encourage and support tenure-track junior faculty for their work in cancer etiology, diagnosis, treatment or prevention. Dr. Lu, a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), joined Columbia in the spring of 2018 and has a longstanding interest in studying chromatin dynamics and its role in human diseases, particularly cancer. 

This award, which is bestowed by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) to a single recipient each year, is named after the late Nobel Laureate, a pioneer in drug research who served as scientist emeritus at Glaxo Wellcome Co. and past president of the AACR. Dr. Lu will receive financial support for his work that will take a deep dive into understanding chromatin abnormalities and misregulation of gene expression in cancer. To date, such efforts have largely focused on small-scale genomic regions such as promoters, gene-bodies and enhancers. However, Dr. Lu notes, the presence of microscopically visible nuclear morphological changes in cancerous tumors suggests that large-scale remodeling of chromatin organization is common in cancer through mechanisms that remain poorly characterized—an area he and his lab are further investigating via innovative epigenomic and imaging technologies. 

A central focus of the Lu lab at Columbia is to understand basic mechanisms governing chromatin organization and access during normal and cancer development. Lu and his team hope by generating a sufficient body of knowledge around the basic mechanisms governing genome regulation, novel paths to epigenetic therapy can be uncovered. 

As part of receiving the Elion Cancer Research award, Dr. Lu will present his research, “Reprogramming of Chromatin States in Cancer” at the 2019 AACR annual meeting in Atlanta. 

Dr. Lu received his PhD from University of Pennsylvania, followed by postdoctoral training at the Rockefeller University. In addition to this year’s Gertrude B. Elion Cancer award, he has won the Blavatnik Regional Award for Young Scientists, Damon Runyon Fellowship Award and NIH Pathway to Independence award. 

-Melanie A. Farmer