This summer two Hampden-Sydney College Biology majors, James Lau ’17 and Brant Boucher ’17, are conducting melanoma research alongside Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01. Previous research in the Hargadon laboratory has shown a role for the FOXC2 transcription factor in promoting melanoma growth and metastasis, and James and Brant are currently investigating different aspects of FOXC2 as it relates to melanoma progression. Using a mouse melanoma model, James is comparing gene and protein expression profiles of a highly aggressive melanoma cell line that expresses high levels of FOXC2 versus a CRISPR-Cas9 gene-edited version of this melanoma in which the Foxc2
gene has been disrupted. This work will provide insights into genes that may be positively or negatively regulated by FOXC2 and will improve our understanding of how FOXC2 promotes aggressive behavior in cancer cells. In related work, Brant is investigating a novel gene silencing approach that aims to shut down Foxc2
gene expression specifically in melanoma cells. The ability to turn this gene off specifically in melanoma cells would offer an exciting opportunity to prevent the tumor-promoting functions of this gene in cancer cells without impacting FOXC2’s normal function in healthy cells. Both James and Brant have already been accepted to medical school and will begin following their graduation from H-SC in 2017!
James Lau ’17 performing flow cytometric analysis of B16-F1 melanoma cells containing functional versus disrupted Foxc2 genes.
Brant Boucher ’17 setting up a real-time PCR reaction to assess melanoma-specific silencing of the Foxc2 gene.