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Eric Christenson, MD
Fellow in Medical Oncology
Johns Hopkins University
Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO
- Seeking new ways to target cancer’s vulnerabilities.
- Laboratory studies are conducted to study an inherited mechanism of cancer-causing DNA mutations and identify strategies to target this defect.
- These studies will shed new light on inherited breast cancer risk.
APOBEC proteins are important in fighting off deadly viruses, including HIV, Human Papilloma and Hepatitis B. A rare inherited variant called APOBEC3A-B is also associated with cancer-causing DNA mutations. Dr. Christenson is creating a laboratory model of APOBEC3A-B to identify ways to manipulate this defect for the development of novel therapies.
Full Research Summary
Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer diagnosed in women in the U.S. While there are some well-defined inherited risk factors for the development of breast cancer, most notably mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, most women who develop breast cancer have no known genetic risk factors to explain why they developed the disease.
Dr. Christenson is studying a family of proteins called APOBEC, which play a critical role in the immune system by attacking viral infections including HIV, Human Papilloma Virus, and Hepatitis B. The APOBEC proteins perform this function by mutating the genetic material of viruses to prevent them from replicating and spreading infection. Unfortunately, APOBEC can also produce mutations within human DNA, which can lead to cancer.
Large scale mutational analysis of tumors suggests that as much as half of all breast cancers have evidence of APOBEC-related mutations. One type of variant called APOBEC3A-B is inherited and believed to be associated with a higher rate of both APOBEC -associated mutations and breast cancer.
Dr. Christensen’s Conquer Cancer Foundation research supported by BCRF is focused on developing models of the APOBEC3A-B variant to better understand how it contributes to mutational burden and breast cancer. He will then this information to search for ways to exploit this defect in the development of novel treatment approaches
Eric Christenson, MD is a Medical Oncology Fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital where he studies genetic predispositions to breast cancer and associated therapeutic vulnerabilities of resultant cancers. Dr. Christenson attended the combined BS/MD program at Villanova University where he received his Bachelor of Science in Biology and matriculated at Drexel University College of Medicine. After graduating AOA from Drexel, he completed the Osler Internal Medicine residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital before joining the Medical Oncology Fellowship Program at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Christenson is currently working to elucidate the APOBEC3A-B deletion polymorphism’s impact on mutational rate and carcinogenesis. He aims to leverage knowledge gained from these investigations to probe for therapeutic vulnerabilities under the mentorship of Dr. Ben Ho Park.
BCRF Investigator Since
The Blizzard Entertainment Award