Schaeffer Receives Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA)

March 29, 2013

Durham, NC —Daneen Schaeffer, PhD, a third year postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University Medical Center, was awarded a National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Cancer Institute. This competitive fellowship will provide stipend support for her third year of postdoctoral research.

Schaeffer works in the laboratory of Mariano Garcia-Blanco, PhD, Charles D. Watts Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Professor of Medicine, Director of the Center for RNA Biology, and Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. The Garcia-Blanco laboratory studies the importance, frequency, and molecular processes that occur during epithelial plasticity (EP), which allows for the metastatic progression of carcinomas. Schaeffer is working on a project that investigates cellular migration and invasion in the EP of prostate cancer progression. Schaffer has established a prostate cancer model system that demonstrates that cellular migration and tumor cell invasion are not coordinated processes–her characterization of this system challenges the established dogma behind cancer cell migration during EP.

“The processes that occur during carcinoma metastasis, from how cancer cells enter the circulatory system to how they are able to proliferate at distant sites, are still not understood. While my data suggest that a highly metastatic cell line is weakly migratory in vitro and in situ at the site of the primary tumor, we don’t know whether this cell line (or others) can become more migratory during other steps of the metastatic cascade,” says Schaeffer. “My future research interests are in how the primary tumor and metastatic tumor microenvironment affects migration and invasion during prostate cancer progression.”

“As a graduate student, Daneen did stellar work on mechanisms that regulate mRNA stability in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and now, in the laboratory, she is focusing her considerable talents on the post-transcriptional gene regulation that determines cell behavior during metastatic spread of cancer,” says Garcia Blanco.

Prior to receiving this fellowship, and within the first month of joining the Garcia-Blanco laboratory, Schaeffer was awarded an institutional T32 Viral Oncology Training Grant that supported her first two years in the laboratory. Most recently, Schaeffer’s application for a Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) Postdoctoral Training Award from the Department of Defense (DoD) was recommended for funding and will support her fourth and fifth years as a postdoctoral fellow.


The NIH awards the NRSA to support predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows in their research training. The namesake of the NRSA is Dr. Ruth L. Kirschstein, who became the first woman director of an National Institute of Health (NIH) Institute and advocated for research training and the inclusion of underrepresented individuals in the scientific community.