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Geneticist to speak about her research on individualized cancer therapy

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is pleased to announce the next speaker in its 2013-2014 University Distinguished Lecturer Series—Dr. Carol Bult, who will discuss the research she has done on genetically-based cancer therapies. Dr. Bult will deliver a talk titled Cancer Avatars and Individualized Cancer Therapy on Tuesday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. Her talk is free and the public is invited to be a part of this special evening.

A geneticist and bioinformatician, Dr. Bult uses genome technologies and computational biology to understand complex biology systems. As a Principal Investigator in the Mouse Genome Informatics (MGI) database consortium at The Jackson Laboratory, she has been researching the genomics of normal development to gain insights into the genes and networks that underlie lung disease, cancer, and birth defects.

This work includes researching the use of mice as ‘avatars’ for specific patients to advance the development of novel, targeted cancer therapies. Using these mice as hosts for transplanted human cells and tissue, scientists are able to complete “virtual clinical trials” to test experimental and existing cancer therapies on a large scale with high throughput, so that the most effective cancer therapies can be developed for these patients.

A key next step in the evolution of this research is to use the genome markers identified in a patient’s tumor in combination with drug responses in the tissue located in the corresponding mouse host to guide the selection of treatment options, a concept called Cancer Avatar. During her talk, Dr. Bult will detail this research, review the results of several Cancer Avatar platform validation studies, and discuss the potential impacts it could have for cancer treatment in the future.

A native of Michigan, Dr. Bult earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at George Mason University in Virginia before pursuing a doctorate in genetics at the University of New Hampshire. Her postdoctoral positions included a two-year stint at The Smithsonian Institution, where she helped to usher in the then-nascent field of molecular systematics. A founding faculty member of The Institute for Genomic Research in Maryland, Dr. Bult was recruited by The Jackson Laboratory in 1997.

Among the career highlights of Dr. Bult’s research to date are the first use of high-throughput DNA sequencing for the discovery of novel human genes, sequencing and annotating the first three complete genomes of cellular organisms, the initial sequencing and analysis of the mouse genome, and the first comprehensive assessment of transcriptional diversity and dynamics in the mouse genome.

The University’s Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 1999. Each year, the UDLS Committee sponsors four to six speakers who come from Maine and beyond, representing a range of disciplines and viewpoints. While the emphasis tends to be on featuring visiting academics, it is not exclusively so. The speakers typically spend two days at the University meeting with classes and presenting a community lecture.

All are invited to attend Dr. Bult’s talk. For more information, contact the University’s Community and Media Relations Office at 768-9452.