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Heather Christofk, Ph.D. Gets Damon Runyon-Rachleff on Her Research Side

The Award Winning Asst ProfessorUCLA Assistant Professor Awarded Prestigious Grant to Study Cancer Metabolism
Unraveling an Old Mystery Using New Technology

The award will allow Christofk to study how glucose metabolism is altered in cancer leading to tumor growth.

A $450,000 grant – given over three years – accompanies the prestigious award and will allow Christofk to continue her ground breaking research which will hopefully significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Scientists have known since the 1920s that one distinguishing characteristic of cancer cells is their altered glucose metabolism: compared to normal cells, cancer cells have a “sweet tooth†and use much more glucose from the environment. This discovery has yet to be exploited for therapeutic benefit.

Christofk’s goal is to identify the proteins within cancer cells that are responsible for their altered glucose metabolism. She aims to grow tumors in mice, and then turn off the metabolic ‘switches,’ monitoring the result using positron emission tomography, an advanced imaging technology. Her research will determine whether targeting tumor metabolism is a feasible approach for cancer therapy and may identify novel cancer drug targets.

“The field of cancer metabolism has re-emerged with a great deal of promise in the last few years, yet there are several fundamental questions still to be answered. This award will dramatically accelerate my research and allow me to answer some of these critical questions on a much shorter timetable,†said Christofk, assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology and a researcher with the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center. “Thank you to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the Rachleffs for their generous support – this award is one of the greatest honors a young scientist could hope for!â€

A UCLA alum, Christofk completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University. Prior to joining the UCLA faculty, she conducted her postdoctoral research at the UCSF Cancer Research Institute.

The Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award Winners are selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process where their projects are judged by fellow scientists who are also innovators. The program is made possible through the generous support of Andy and Debbie Rachleff and the Island Outreach Foundation.

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