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Boston Latin School
Boston, MA

Jeremiah Wala
Cancer Program

Cancer cells accumulate chromosomal rearrangements that provide a survival advantage. This typically occurs through the deletion of tumor-suppressor genes, amplification of oncogenes, or creation of new oncogenic fusion genes. Despite their prevalence and substantial impact on the cancer genome, the mechanisms that generate chromosomal rearrangements are still incompletely understood. 

The presence of repetitive sequences within DNA may enhance chromosome instability. Our genomes harbor numerous repetitive elements, such as long interspersed elements (LINE) and short interspersed elements (SINE). Nathan investigated if rearrangement breakpoints were enriched at LINE and SINE elements within diverse tumors. Specifically, he used a computational method to examine these breakpoints in 2,854 tumor genomes. Through this powerful approach, Nathan assessed repetitive element rearrangements in fifty types of cancerous tissues. The data he generates significantly aid our analyses asking whether rearrangements at these repetitive sites are positively selected during cancer progression.        

Nathan applied to BSSP for an enriching summer experience, both in terms of academic research as well as bonding with fellow high school students who share the same interests and goals. One of his favorite things about the Broad was the diverse scientific community. “If I had a question about anything in biology from a cell pathway to a bioinformatics tool, chances are someone down the hall could answer it. That was absolutely exciting,” said Nathan.