Salk Institute scientist Reuben J. Shaw, a Hearst Endowment assistant professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, has been selected a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist. He is one of 50 researchers chosen out of more than 2,000 applicants for the prestigious six-year appointment.
Shaw is particularly interested in understanding the molecular link between cancer and metabolism. While studying one of the most commonly mutated genes in lung cancer, he discovered an ancient energy-sensing pathway that shuts down cell growth and reprograms metabolism when nutrients are scarce.
Epidemiological studies have shown that individuals with Type II diabetes have an elevated risk for certain forms of cancer. Shaw thinks that deregulation of the energy-sensing mechanism may explain why some cell types are more likely to give rise to cancer when metabolism is altered. On the upside, existing diabetes therapeutics may prove useful as chemotherapeutics for forms of cancer with mutations in this pathway, which he plans to further explore with his new appointment.
Shaw's lab is also searching for additional components of the pathway to fill in the understanding of how the molecular intersection between nutrition, diabetes and cancer truly functions. He plans to use mouse studies to further explore this critical connection and tease out the precise role of each component of the signaling pathway.
These studies will lead to future therapeutic targets and new intervention points in both cancer and Type II diabetes. Shaw's appointment brings the total number of HHMI investigators at the Salk Institute to eight.