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Faculty Spotlight: Panos Ntziachristos, PhD

Panagiotis Ntziachristos, PhD, joined Northwestern University FSM’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and Medicine (Hematology and Oncology) as an Assistant Professor in September of 2015. He also is a member of the Lurie Cancer Center and Simpson Querrey Center for Epigenetics. Ntziachristos earned his doctorate at the University of Athens and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in 2015 at New York University in the laboratory of Iannis Aifantis, PhD, Herman M. Biggs Professor and Chair, Department of Pathology, NYU Langone Medical Center. He brought with him a NIH K99/ R00 career development award.

Now, just within the last two months, Panos has been recognized and awarded with four prestigious awards: the 2017 Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award for the project Splicing Errors and Drug Resistance in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia; a Gabrielle's Angel Foundation Medical Research Award for his project Post-translational regulation of splicing as a pro-oncogenic mechanism in high-risk T cell leukemia; and the Elsa U. Pardee Foundation Award for his research project, Delineating the Pro-oncogenic Role of Deubiquitination in High-Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Panos was also recently named Gilead Sciences Research Scholar in Hematology/Oncology for 2017.

Dr. Ntziachristos has been recognized previously as a successful young scientist by being awarded as an American Society of Hematology Fellow as well as by the Leukemia Research Foundation and St. Baldrick’s Foundation more recently.

“The members of my group and I are extremely grateful for the precious grant support, that will help spearhead the future of our research,” said Dr. Ntziachristos. “We feel excited about further developing these stories with a focus on translating our findings to the clinic. We hope that our research could pave the way for new therapeutic approaches against pediatric leukemia, in the near future.”

The Hartwell Foundation awards provide financial support to scientists pursuing innovative and cutting-edge biomedical research to advance children’s health.

The Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research funds innovative clinical or basic science research focused on the development of effective therapies for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and related cancers.

The Elsa U. Pardee Foundation was established in 1944 under the terms of the will of Mrs. Elsa U. Pardee, whose life was taken by cancer on October 2, 1944. Mrs. Pardee provided a $1 million trust fund "for the promotion of the control and cure of cancer."

Ntziachristos studies the mechanistic aspects of oncogenesis with an emphasis on transcriptional and epigenetic regulation of acute leukemia. The goal of his work is to explain how cancer cells differ from other cells to help inform future targeted therapies.

“These excellent grants, albeit distinct from one another, fall under the general umbrella of investigating underappreciated non-genetic components of chemotherapy resistance in pediatric leukemia: RNA biology and post-translational regulation of proteins, to name a few. For instance, we have recently identified a new protein marker that could be potentially used for the stratification of leukemia subtypes and treatment prioritization. Further delineation of these aspects of leukemia could lead to personalized therapies potentially used in combination with systemic therapies to treat aggressive types of leukemia. To achieve our goals, we have formed an interdisciplinary group of basic scientists and set up several collaborations with physician scientists at Northwestern, and elsewhere in the US and abroad. Support from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and the Lurie Cancer Center, and guidance from my mentors, especially Drs. Ali Shilatifard, John Crispino and Leon Platanias, has been instrumental for our research,” said Dr. Ntziachristos.

“I am very proud of Panos for his fundamental studies of chromatin biology and its link to the development of hematological malignancies. These awards are very hard to attain and only a few outstanding investigators in the country have been their recipients. I have no doubt that Panos will be a great steward of these funds and his laboratory will provide fundamental groundbreaking studies using the resources provided by these awards to significantly push the field forward with the hope of developing targeted therapeutics for the treatment of leukemia”, said Dr. Ali Shilatifard, the Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and the Director of the Simpson Querrey Center for Epigenetics.

Dr. Ntziachristos moved here to Chicago with his wife, Luca Pancratov, and not only is Panos establishing his first lab, but also recently welcomed his first child to the family.