Lydia Finley, PhD Back To 2020 Winners

2020 Winners

Vision

The Finley Lab investigates how nutrients control cell fate decisions in stem cells and cancer cells. In particular, we are interested in understanding how changes in metabolite availability shape the chromatin landscape to influence gene expression programs that control cell survival, growth and differentiation. Our work aims to answer fundamental questions about how cells regulate the commitment to differentiation and how failure to execute terminal differentiation can underlie diseases such as cancer. We hope to use these insights to facilitate development of novel metabolic therapies to treat malignant disease.

(Featured image photo courtesy of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)

Lydia Finley is an Assistant Member in the Cell Biology Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and an Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Finley received her BS summa cum laude from Yale University and completed her PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Marcia Haigis at Harvard Medical School. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Craig Thompson at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Finley identified metabolites that contribute to the regulation of embryonic stem cell self-renewal. Since opening her own laboratory, she has investigated the mechanisms that link metabolic pathways to cell fate decisions. Using both stem cells and cancer cells, her laboratory has discovered genetic and environmental factors that drive metabolic regulation of chromatin modifications and gene expression programs that control cell fate. Dr. Finley is a Searle Scholar and the recipient of the Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Metabolic Control of Pediatric Malignancies

Photo courtesy of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Pediatric cancers are devastating diseases requiring aggressive treatments that result in life-long risk of additional complications. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify novel treatments for children with cancer. The goal of this research is to identify potentially targetable vulnerabilities in pediatric sarcomas by studying the metabolic pathways that sustain their growth and progression. Over the past decade, extensive efforts have been devoted to studying metabolism in adult malignancies. This work has revealed fundamental insights into the development of adult cancers and resulted in promising new therapies targeting the aberrant metabolic activity that fuels cancer growth. In contrast, the metabolic landscape of pediatric malignancies remains poorly studied.

“The Prize will allow us to use new cancer models and new genetic approaches to explore how cellular metabolism controls the initiation and progression of deadly cancers. Ultimately, the Prize will help us to explore the potential of metabolic interventions as novel anti-cancer therapies.” 

Photo courtesy of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

We propose to harness a rich resource of patient-derived models to characterize the metabolic profile of pediatric sarcoma. Using targeted screening approaches, we will identify specific metabolic proteins required for growth and progression of pediatric sarcoma. These studies will provide unprecedented insight into the metabolic activity of pediatric cancer and will lay the groundwork for future work developing a novel class of therapeutic agents to treat these devastating diseases.

“Innovation is the union of creativity, courage and rigor. Innovation arises when challenging questions are tackled with new perspectives and approaches, bolstered by critical analysis and careful intellectual groundwork.”