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Timothy J. Mitchison, PhD
How Does Paclitaxel Work as a Cancer Medicine?
Hasib Sabbagh Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016
Paclitaxel is an important anti-cancer drug that stabilizes microtubules, causing dividing cancer cells to arrest in mitosis and eventually die. If we could understand the principles by which this effective, but toxic, drug acts, we might be able to design better future drugs. Paclitaxel and other cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs are thought to gain their selectivity from tumor cells proliferating faster than normal cells, yet the reality is that most human tumors grow slowly, with infrequent divisions. Using intravital imaging to visualize dividing cells in living mice, Dr. Mitchison and his colleagues have been comparing how paclitaxel kills cancer cells in tissue culture and model mouse tumors. They have found that the mitotic death mechanism seen in culture does occur in a subset of tumor cells, but it is not sufficient to explain the overall tumor response. The scientists are investigating how paclitaxel may cause a change in the tumor environment to promote regression.
About the Speaker:
Timothy Mitchison, PhD, is the Hasib Sabbagh Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, where he also serves as deputy chair of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Systems Biology. Dr. Mitchison chairs the steering committee for ICCB-Longwood, Harvard Medical School’s facility for high-throughput screening of RNAi and small molecule libraries.
Dr. Mitchison earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Merton College at the University of Oxford and a doctorate in biochemistry and biophysics from the University of California, San Francisco.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Mitchison has worked on the mechanism of cell division, and has made major discoveries on how the mitotic spindle is built and how chromosomes move. He is also an expert in drug discovery. For seven years, he led the Harvard Institute for Chemistry and Cell Biology, where he focused on the discovery of new drugs that block cell division and the development of new technologies for drug discovery, notably automated microscopy.