Mentor: Bridget Wagner, Chemical Biology Program
Microtubule inhibitors are a widely used class of chemotherapy drugs and are often toxic to healthy as well as cancerous cells. In this study, we explored the possibility that microtubule inhibitors have a mitochondrial target in cancer cells, which could change cancer cell metabolism. Rotenone, a mitochondria-targeting drug that inhibits electron transport, reduces ATP production in human lung cancer cells. But this effect was attenuated if the cells were pretreated with two common drugs that modulate microtubules, vinblastine or paclitaxel. (Microtubules are thread-like structures inside cells that are needed for cell division.) These results suggest that microtubule modulators may also have effects on the mitochondria, the “energy plant” inside the cell.
"In returning to the Broad Institute this summer as an SRPG student, I have been able to again be surrounded by individuals at all career stages who are passionate about research. This passion was completely infectious, and inspiring, and drove my dedication to my work in a way that could probably only happen at the Broad Institute. Being around a group with such a unanimous agreement on the vitality of science is a guaranteed way to never lose sight of your motivation."
Kristin Rose, a senior majoring in biology at MIT, found evidence to suggest that microtubule inhibitors have effects on cancer cells beyond simply inhibiting structural elements; in fact, these commonly used chemotherapy drugs seemed to alter aspects of energy metabolism.