Science Faculty Spotlight: Andrew Wolfe
A biochemist seeks more effective and equitable ways to treat lung, pancreatic, and colon cancers.
Professor Andrew Wolfe (GC/Hunter, Biochemistry, Biology) leads a cancer research lab in the Belfer Research Building at Hunter College and is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
The Wolfe lab investigates the biological mechanisms underlying lung, pancreatic, and colon cancers, and how to exploit vulnerabilities in cancer mutations and activity to find better cancer therapies. Wolfe’s research focuses on tumor oncogenes: How do tumors change how they grow, survive, and proliferate throughout the body? An overarching goal of the lab is to increase equity in cancer therapy. Current cancer therapies favor some populations over others, either through availability of treatment or oncogenic markers in specific types of cancer. Research conducted in the Wolfe lab aims to increase the number of targets for cancer therapies and therefore expand the population each therapy can treat.
“There’s a pattern than emerges with targeted therapy, where it works for a little while and then the tumors find a way to get around that therapy and recur,” Wolfe said. “Even if the therapies work for a little while, they don’t work forever.” The ways cancer evades therapy are called mechanisms of resistance.
Specific projects in the lab generally focus on RAS proteins, a family of signaling proteins that are mutated in over a quarter of human cancers and are common targets for development of cancer treatments. Projects include further investigation of UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase 2, a critical protein in pancreatic cancer growth, and an industry collaboration on experimental therapeutics capable of targeting oncogenic mutations that are currently unable to be clinically targeted. Techniques and methods used in the lab include tissue culture, flow cytometry, immunoblots, and various molecular biology techniques.
The Wolfe lab is supported by an R00 NIH Pathway to Independence Award through the National Cancer Institute, startup funds provided by Hunter College, and a collaboration with Oncogenuity, a biopharmaceutical company focused on development and commercialization of cancer treatments.
The Wolfe lab is currently recruiting postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. Research experience is a positive, but the lab also serves as an opportunity to train beginner scientists to develop good research practices and critical thinking abilities.
“I want [to create] an intellectually stimulating, positive learning environment where we can have a welcoming, diverse, and collaborative lab,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe has a bachelor's degree in biology and psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Ph.D. from Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in the Cancer Biology and Genetics Department at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He had postdoctoral fellowships at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Department of Oncological Sciences and the University of California, San Francisco in the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.