Assistant Professor, Departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Molecular & Human Genetics
Dr. Westbrook was nominated for his far-reaching work in mammalian genetics, breast cancer research and treatment, and cancer biology. His work with PTPN12 tyrosine phosphatase showed that this protein severely limits the promise the tumorigenic and metastatic potential of cells, potentially opening up the way to new strategies for triple negative breast cancer treatment, which is the most poorly understood breast cancer and resistant to current treatments. Other work with some of the most dangerous and resistant oncogenes, such as Ras and Myc, yielded discoveries into signaling networks essential for survival of those oncogenes in cancer cells. The final work on which Dr. Westbrook's nomination was based on his lab's development of a new generation of lentiviral tools that enable efficient experimental control of gene expression through inducible RNAi across many tissue and cancer types in vivo. These systems have been widely disseminated to the scientific community and have been used for inducible RNAi and cDNA expression in diverse fields of study including mammary gland development, lung cancer, oxygen sensing, and viral-host response. Collectively, these innovative tools have facilitated new genetic approaches and opened previously unexplored areas of research.
Three papers in particular demonstrate the impact and importance of Dr. Westbrook's work and form the basis of his nomination to the Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Award:
Sun T, Aceto N, Meerbrey KL, Kessler JD, Zhou C, Migliaccio I, Nguyen DX, Pavlova NN, Botero M, Huang J, Bernardi RJ, Schmitt EM, Hu G, Li MZ, Dephoure N, Rao M, Gygi SP, Creighton CJ, Hilsenbeck SG, Shaw CA, Muzny D, Gibbs R, Wheeler D, Osborne CK, Schiff R, Bentires-Alj M, Elledge SJ, Westbrook, TF (2011) "Activation of multiple proto-oncogenic tyrosine kinases in breast cancer via loss of the PTPN12 phosphatase". Cell, 144(5):703-18.
Kessler JD, Kahle KT, Sun T, Meerbrey KL, Schlabach MR, Schmitt EM, Skinner SO, Xu Q, Li MZ, Hartman ZC, Rao M, Yu P, Dominguez-Vidana R, Liang AC, Solimini NL, Bernardi RJ, Yu B, Hsu T, Golding I, Luo J, Osborne CK, Creighton CJ, Hilsenbeck SG, Schiff R, Shaw CA, Elledge SJ, and Westbrook, TF (2012) "A sumoylation-dependent transcriptional subprogram is required for Myc-driven tumorigenesis". Science 335(6066): 348-53.
Meerbrey KL, Hu G, Kessler JD, Roarty K, Li MZ, Fang JE, Herschkowitz JI, Burrows AE, Ciccia A, Sun T, Schmitt EM, Bernardi RJ, Fu X, Bland CS, Cooper TA, Schiff R, Rosen JM, Westbrook TF*, Elledge SJ* (2011) "The pINDUCER lentiviral toolkit for inducible RNA interference in vitro and in vivo". PNAS, 108(9): 3665-70. *co-corresponding, co-equal contribution.