Dissecting Photoreceptor Lineage Identity as a Tumorigenic Vulnerability in Pediatric Cancer

2024 Emerging Leader Award

Paul Northcott, PhD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Paul Northcott, PhD

This project aims to evaluate molecular, cellular, and functional properties unifying different childhood cancers of the developing central nervous system. It will build off of preliminary data from the Northcott lab showing that specific subtypes of medulloblastoma, pineoblastoma, and retinoblatsoma share conserved molecular features associated with photoreceptor cells that unifies these anatomically distinct pediatric cancers. Resolving commonalities of these otherwise diverse malignancies will reveal novel therapeutic opportunities urgently needed to improve outcomes and quality of life for affected children. 

Dr. Northcott is the Endowed Chair in Molecular Neuro-Oncology and founding Director of the Center of Excellence in Neuro-Oncology Sciences (CENOS) within the Comprehensive Cancer Center of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. During his PhD and postdoctoral training, Paul made numerous impactful contributions to the pediatric neuro-oncology literature, including the original description of molecularly and clinically distinct subgroups of medulloblastoma, consortia-level annotation of genomic and epigenomic landscapes, and the discovery of ‘enhancer hijacking’ as a novel mechanism of oncogene activation in brain tumors. The Northcott Lab deploys multidimensional genomic and functional approaches to disclose the molecular, cellular, and mechanistic basis of medulloblastoma initiation, maintenance, progression, and relapse. The overarching goal of these efforts is to enhance diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes for affected children and their families.