Grants - Washington - V Scholar Grants - 2019

Gavin Ha, Ph.D.

Funded by the Constellation Gold Network Distributors

My research is focused on understanding the role of genetic abnormalities in prostate cancer treatment resistance. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, but what makes prostate cancer deadly in some men, but not others? The answer lies in the DNA of prostate tumor cells. Abnormal changes can occur in the DNA of tumor cells and give them the ability to resist standard treatments. Monitoring tumor DNA over time could uncover these changes. As the cancer progresses, tumor cells can move and grow in distant organs. Often, obtaining tumor cells from these organs is painful and difficult. What if tumor cells and its DNA were easier to access? We address this problem by using an exciting method, called a “liquid biopsy”, to measure tiny amounts of DNA that are released from tumor cells into the blood. We develop new computational techniques, combined with genetic sequencing, to reveal “signatures” of tumor DNA alterations from the blood. These signatures could allow oncologists to track whether a patient is responding well to treatment. They could also help predict whether a patient’s tumor has the potential to resist treatment. Ultimately our work will provide new tools to help doctors care for patients with less discomfort, more accuracy, and greater precision.