Mayo Returns to Indiana University after Stint at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
Lindsey D. Mayo, Ph.D., a former IU School of Medicine postdoctoral research fellow, has returned to the school as assistant professor for Wells Center for Pediatric Research. He has also joined the Indiana University Cancer Center’s Experimental and Developmental Therapeutics Program. Mayo’s research goals are to examine the regulation of tumor suppressors and oncogenes, which can promote cancer if altered.
An Indiana native from Plainfield, Mayo attributes his return to the excitement of the faculty in the Wells Center and current expansion projects of the Indiana University Cancer Center - specifically Research III and the new cancer care facility to be completed in 2008.
“It seemed like the right time to come to IU with the programs being developed and being involved in the development and expansion of the IU Cancer Center,” remarks Mayo.
Mayo’s research has the potential to be applied to many cancers - from breast, ovarian, prostate and renal cancers to various pediatric cancers including glioblastoma, osteosarcomas and leukemia. In particular, he focuses on finding solutions for late-stage metastatic tumors. For example, Mayo is studying the factors involved to cause tumors cells to migrate to distant parts of the body.
“A lot of people are looking at gene mutations in cancer which is very important, but gene therapy approaches have great technical limitations,” explains Mayo. “My work examines another tract of how the protein functions which, once we understand how they work, can be targeted by drugs.”
Mayo’s research focuses on tumor suppressor proteins, largely p53 and PTEN, that reduce the likelihood a cell will turn into a tumor cell. A mutation or deletion of such a gene will increase the likelihood that a tumor will form. In human cancers, either p53 or PTEN, but rarely both, are deactivated through gene mutations which can’t be corrected. On the other hand, in the absence of a gene mutation which occurs in roughly half of human cancers, p53 is in essence put to sleep and this is able to trigger tumor growth and migration.
Mayo studies the Mdm2 proteins that carry out the activity of causing the cells to grow and metastasize. Mdm2 is an oncoprotein that is able to function as a neutralizer of p53 and activate several other proteins that cause normal cells to progress into cancer. His work is funded by a National Cancer Institute R01 grant, investigating how the different modes of Mdm2 function to perturb the master tumor suppressor p53 and influence tumor cell growth.
Mayo has received national recognition, as he was one of five recipients of the General Motor Cancer Research Scholar Awards while at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. This award was given at the same ceremony as the Sloan, Kettering and Mott awards to pre-eminent cancer researchers. He received the award for differentiating the ability of p53 to mediate DNA repair and cell survival versus cell death after cells were treated with a chemotherapeutic agent. The conclusion of this work demonstrates that, if the dose of chemotherapeutic agent is not optimal, then p53 will not kill the cancer cells (See J Biol Chem. 2005 Jul 15;280(28):25953-9).
Receiving his bachelor’s in life sciences in 1992 from Indiana State University, Mayo first learned of oncogenes and tumor suppressors as an undergraduate. “I remember a faculty member Dr. David Prentice; he was a extremely good teacher, who stimulated my interest in cancer research,” recalls Mayo. “In his class he began talking about tumor suppressors and oncogenes and, from this point on, I was hooked.”
Mayo went on to Wright State University to work in Dr. Steven Berberich’s laboratory focusing on Mdm2 and p53 and received a doctoral degree in biomedical sciences in 1997 from the university. He returned to Indiana for a Walther Oncology Center postdoctoral fellowship in microbiology and immunology and was the 2003 recipient of the Bowman Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research. He served as assistant professor in the Departments of Radiation Oncology and Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University until 2006 and joined the IU faculty in January 2007.