Breast cancer researcher Olga Anczuków joins JAX Genomic Medicine faculty
By Joyce Peterson
Olga Anczuków, Ph.D., a breast cancer researcher who investigates how changes in gene regulation contribute to cancer, will be joining The Jackson Laboratory faculty as an assistant professor.
Anczuków studies the role of RNA splicing, a step in the cell’s protein-building process, in cancer. As RNA builds itself on the “template” of DNA, it skips the regions (called introns) that do not code for proteins and copies only coding regions (exons).
“My goal is to understand how regulation of RNA splicing contributes to normal breast and ovary development,” she says, “and how changes in RNA splicing lead to transformation into cancer cells, and affect tumor initiation, metastasis and the mechanisms involved in drug resistance.”
Anczuków was born and raised in Poland, but traveled extensively with her parents, spending part of her childhood in Cuba and Belgium. At age 18 she moved to France, to pursue her longtime interest in biology, earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1.
For her master’s and Ph.D., Anczuków studied breast cancer genetics, focusing on mutations in breast cancer predisposing genes including BRCA1, BRCA2. During her Ph.D. work, she says, she “stumbled on” some mutations that affect RNA expression and RNA splicing.
She notes, “What we call ‘breast cancer’ is really many different diseases. It’s very complicated and heterogeneous, and we still don’t understand it very well. We’ve been looking for a very long time at changes at the gene level, which are of course important. But there are multiple areas of regulation downstream, including gene expression and changes in RNA processing. And I believe that by looking at RNA splicing we’ll get a better understanding and characterization of tumors, and ultimately we’ll be able to treat them more effectively.”
Once Anczuków completed her Ph.D., she conducted her postdoctoral training at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, in the lab of Professor Adrian Krainer, Ph.D.
She says she had long known about The Jackson Laboratory and its “reputation for excellence in biomedical research.” She says she was attracted to the “long-term, cutting-edge vision” of JAX President and CEO Edison Liu, M.D., and JAX Genomic Medicine Scientific Director Charles Lee, Ph.D., which “perfectly aligns with my future research goals to define the role of splicing events in human cancers, and to develop cancer biomarkers and targeted, personalized therapies.”
Moreover, she says, JAX “is a unique place to be able to do great, collaborative science. The researchers here really work together, joining their efforts and complementary expertise to understand human diseases and advance modern medicine, and that is the only way you can hope to beat cancer.”
Anczuków will officially join the JAX faculty on June 15.
The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs 1,700 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.