This information is accurate as of the fellowship year indicated for each fellow.
Luke Whitesell is a pediatric oncologist at the University of Arizona currently on leave at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. His clinical research interests lie in the treatment of children with recurrent, refractory solid tumors. His laboratory efforts are focused on the discovery and development of new anticancer drugs from natural product sources, including microorganisms that colonize desert plants of the Sonoran Desert region of North America.
During his fellowship year, Whitesell will examine how a specific cellular protein called Hsp90 might act as an essential biochemical buffer for the genetic heterogeneity characteristic of cancers. Hsp90 function will be compromised experimentally using several different approaches. The effects on the ability of cancer cells to develop more aggressive, drug-resistant characteristics will be measured. The results will provide new insights into malignant progression as an evolutionary process and the key molecular determinants that underlie it. Such insights are essential for developing treatment strategies to address the genetic heterogeneity of advanced malignancies.
Whitesell pursued graduate work in pharmacology at Cambridge University prior to completing medical training at Johns Hopkins University and a pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Boston. He held postdoctoral fellowships at the National Cancer Institute before joining the faculty of the University of Arizona in 1994. His group’s translational work is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense. Preclinical studies from his lab have contributed directly to ongoing clinical trials of an experimental Hsp90-targeted chemotherapeutic derived from the natural product geldanamycin.