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Jennifer  Whangbo, MD, PhD

Jennifer Whangbo
Research Center:
Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center
Medicine Research
Hematology/Oncology Research
Academic Title:
Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Research Focus Area:
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Research Overview

RNA interference (RNAi) is a widely conserved and naturally occurring process in which small RNAs lead to targeted gene silencing.  In the short time since its discovery in the round worm Caenorhabditis elegans, RNAi has revolutionized our understanding of gene regulation and has been found to play key roles in viral defense mechanisms and in tumor suppression.  Furthermore, researchers are actively developing RNAi-based drugs to silence disease-causing genes in patients.  Some of these drugs are already in Phase II clinical trials.  This new class of drugs has great potential for the treatment of childhood cancers including Ewing’s sarcoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which are associated with specific cancer-causing genes that can be targeted by RNAi.  The biggest challenge facing the effective use of RNAi-based therapies is safe delivery of these drugs to their proper targets while avoiding off-target effects.  RNAi delivery is very efficient in C. elegans, and an important RNA transport protein discovered in the worm has been shown to be important for delivery of guide RNAs in humans.  Our goal is to use C. elegans to identify and characterize additional proteins important for the delivery of RNAi.  This work will allow for subsequent detailed analyses of corresponding human genes and will provide important insights for the delivery of RNAi-based therapies.

About Jennifer Whangbo, MD, PhD

Dr. Whangbo received her Bachelor's in Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1994. She received her PhD from the University of California, San Francisco in 1999 in Biochemistry and her MD from University of California, Los Angeles in 2003.

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Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center

Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is one of the top research centers in the world for pediatric cancers and blood diseases. It brings together laboratory scientists and clinical researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital in a single program. We investigate pediatric cancers and non-malignant blood disorders from every angle—from examining cells under the microscope to tracking the effectiveness of current drug regimens using the most advanced molecular methods—so that we can create better treatments for children seen here and around the world.

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