Internationally recognized genetics researcher to lead Cancer Biology Program

An internationally recognized genetics researcher has joined the University of Arizona Cancer Center to be the program leader of the Center’s Cancer Biology Program.

Nathan A. Ellis, PhD, most recently was an associate professor of pediatrics and member of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He has been previously affiliated with the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the New York Blood Center.

Dr. Ellis’ primary research effort is to identify and characterize genetic risk factors in colorectal cancer. He currently has major research funding from the Center for Cancer Health Disparities in the National Cancer Institute where the work has expanded to construct a Cancer Genome Atlas for African American Colorectal Cancer. Dr. Ellis also has a National Cancer Institute grant to characterize the role of a protein modification, referred to as SUMOylation, in the regulation of DNA repair.

Investigators in the Cancer Biology Program, one of four scientific programs at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, use powerful genetic analysis tools and molecular and cell biology to probe novel basic mechanisms of cancer initiation and progression. The new concepts that emerge from these investigations will be used to test new approaches to target and subvert cancer development, invasion, and metastasis.

Dr. Ellis has conducted groundbreaking research into – and holds a US patent for the methods of – diagnosis and treatment of Bloom Syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by short stature and predisposition to the development of cancer. The disorder is most common among people of Central and Eastern European Jewish background. His recent work has focused on African American colorectal cancer, where comparative population-genetic analysis is promising to shed new light on cancer susceptibility and the biological basis of cancer health disparities.

Dr. Ellis is a graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., and received a doctorate in genetics from the University of Washington. He completed postdoctoral training in human molecular genetics at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now called Cancer Research UK) in London, England. He is a member of the American Society of Human Genetics and the American Association for Cancer Research.

- May 28, 2014