Price Receives F31 NRSA Fellowship from the National Cancer Institute (NCI)

September 18, 2013

Durham NC — Alex Price, an MGM graduate student in the Luftig lab in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, recently received an F31 NRSA fellowship from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) entitled “Temporal regulation of the essential Epstein-Barr virus oncoprotein LMP1”.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a common human virus that infects up to 90% of all adults worldwide. The virus remains latent and asymptomatic in most individuals. However, in those immune-suppressed or under specific genetic or environmental perturbations, EBV can cause cancer. The process of EBV-driven cancers, or lymphomas, can be studied in B cells infected in the laboratory. The Luftig lab focuses on understanding how viral proteins trigger B cells to proliferate in an uncontrolled manner. In particular, Alex will focus on one protein, LMP1, that is essential for EBV-mediated B-cell immortalization and is thought to be the major viral oncoprotein in cancer.

In addition to his recent fellowship, Alex has led a study that was published in the Journal of Virology and highlighted as a Spotlight Editor’s Choice Article and also recently completed a review article for Advances in Virus Research entitled, “Dynamic Epstein-Barr virus gene expression on the path to B-cell transformation”.

“This work has changed the way we view EBV transformation of B cells,” says Micah Luftig, Assistant Professor in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Deputy Director of the Duke University Center for Virology.

“This was once thought to proceed as a binary switch of uninfected to infected cell. However, what is now clear is that EBV regulates B cell gene expression through at least two distinct phases after infection leading to the cell being transformed. Alex’s work suggests that we should consider the dynamics of this process when studying the role of EBV and the host in tumorigenesis as well as when considering diagnostic and therapeutic approaches targeting these virus-induced cancers.”

Alex was also selected to attend and recently completed the American Society for Microbiology Kadner Institute. The Kadner Institute is a career development workshop hosted annually for highly motivated senior graduate students and postdocs in training for a career in microbiological sciences.

“Alex is leading an exemplary path as an MGM student. I am delighted to have him in the lab and look forward to the next discovery we make in our studies”.

For more information, please visit the Luftig website.