Clodagh O'Shea, an assistant professor in the Molecular Cell and Biology Laboratory, has been selected by The Sontag Foundation to receive the 2009 Distinguished Scientist Award. She will receive $600,000 over a four-year period to develop new viral therapies to treat invariably fatal glioblastomas and other brain tumors.
Through the prestigious Distinguished Scientist Awards, The Sontag Foundation recognizes andsupports the work of outstanding early career scientists whose research has the potential to generate new knowledge relating to causes, cures or treatment of brain tumors.
"The Sontag Foundation wants to get people with fresh ideas to think about brain cancer in novel ways," says O'Shea. "I have not focused on brain cancer until I came to the Salk and breaking into the field would have been very difficult without their support. I am extremely excited to be able to translate the genetic understanding of brain cancer into transformative treatments for patients suffering from this terrible disease. To achieve this we will combine new viral vectors, tools and mouse models in a way that's never been done before. It's high risk but it really could change things."
O'Shea is an expert on so-called oncolytic viruses that act as tumor-mutation-guided missiles, which target tumor cells for their own purposes. When infected, cells burst open to release thousands of viral progeny. The next generation of viruses can seek out remaining tumor cells and distant micro-metastases.