SU2C Scientific Research Teams

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Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D.

Scientific Research Team:
SU2C-PCF Dream Team: Precision Therapy for Advanced Prostate Cancer

Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D.

Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D. is a clinical pathologist and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, S.P. Hicks Endowed Professor of Pathology and Professor of Urology at the University of Michigan, and an American Cancer Society Research Professor. He also serves as the inaugural Director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology (MCTP) which is comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of investigators focused on translating “-Omic” technologies to patient care in terms of biomarkers and novel therapeutics.

He has co-authored over 250 manuscripts and is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians (AAP), American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences. He is also a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors for the National Cancer Institute and serves on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR). In 2008 he received the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research. In 2007 Dr. Chinnaiyan and his team were the recipients of the inaugural AACR Team Science Award. He has received a number of other prestigious awards including the 2009 Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, 2009 Philip Levine Award for Cancer Research, 2007 Ramzi Cotran Young Investigator Award from the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, 2006 Burroughs Wellcome Foundation Award for Clinical Translational Research, 2005 Benjamin Castleman Award, and the 2005 Amgen Outstanding Investigator by the American Society of Investigative Pathology.

Dr. Chinnaiyan received his undergraduate degree and M.D., Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan. He carried out his graduate work under the mentorship of Dr. Vishva Dixit. His Ph.D. thesis studies included seminal contributions to the understanding of apoptosis (or programmed cell death). Specifically, his graduate work deciphered the FADD-caspase 8 axis (Cell 81, 505-512; Cell 85(6):817-27) and characterized several cell surface death receptors including DR3 and DR4 (Science 274, 990-992; Science 276, 111-113). Over 25 manuscripts were published based on his graduate work including studies published in Cell, Science and Nature. After completing his M.D.-Ph.D. training, Dr. Chinnaiyan pursued residency training in Clinical Pathology and subsequent board certification. He went on to establish his own independent lab without formal post-doctoral training at the University of Michigan.

The Chinnaiyan laboratory has focused on functional genomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and bioinformatics approaches to study cancer for the purposes of understanding tumor biology as well as to discover clinical biomarkers. He and his collaborators have characterized a number of biomarkers of prostate cancer including AMACR, EZH2, hepsin, the sarcosine metabolite, and TMPRSS2-ETS gene fusions. AMACR and TMPRSS2-ERG are being used clinically across the country in the assessment of cancer in prostate needle biopsies. TMPRSS2-ERG detection in urine for prostate cancer will be clinically available in mid-2012. The Chinnaiyan laboratory is a fertile training ground for the next generation of translational researchers having already impacted the careers of over 20 graduate students and 50 research fellows.

The landmark study thus far from Dr. Chinnaiyan’s laboratory is the discovery of TMPRSS2-ETS gene fusions in a majority of prostate cancers. This discovery was made using a bioinformatics approach on tumor gene expression data. TMPRSS2-ETS gene fusions are specific markers of prostate cancer as well as presumably function as rational targets for this disease. Gene fusions and translocations such as BCR-ABL in CML were thought to primarily be the basis of hematologic malignancies and sarcomas. The finding of recurrent gene fusions in prostate cancer potentially redefines the molecular basis of this disease as well as other common epithelial cancers. The team involved with these studies was awarded the 2007 AACR Team Science Award. The Chinnaiyan lab is focused on translating the prostate cancer gene fusion discovery into better diagnostics and therapies for prostate cancer. His laboratory is also currently using an arsenal of “-Omics” based approaches, including next generation transcriptome sequencing, to decipher the underpinnings of breast cancer, prostate cancer and other common epithelial tumors. His laboratory developed the popular cancer profiling bioinformatics resource called Oncomine (www.oncomine.org) which is freely available to the academic community (hosting over 15,000 registered users from over 30 countries). He is a co-founder of Compendia Biosciences, which supports both the academic and commercial versions of Oncomine. In 2011, MCTP initiated an exploratory clinical sequencing initiative at the UMCCC, called MI-ONCOSEQ, which is attempting to evaluate the potential of high-throughput sequencing in personalized oncology.

Dr. Chinnaiyan will serve as the Dream Team Leader and interact with SU2C/PCF staff. He will oversee the sequencing project, interact and coordinate with the bioethics investigators, and Chair the Dream Team Executive Committee.

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