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W.M. Keck Foundation Awards $1 Million to Hutchinson Center Scholar to Study How Cells Go Awry

SEATTLE, Aug. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Anyone touched by the ravages of cancer knows the rapidly growing, opportunistic cells don't play fair. But in order to expose exactly how cancer cells cheat their host, scientists must first study the rules governing the orderly cooperation of normal cells.

For creating a system that studies the rules governing cellular order - which enhances the potential for learning how cancer cells cheat - Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center basic scientist Wenying Shou, Ph.D., has been named among the W.M. Keck Foundation's 2009 class of Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research. Shou is among five U.S. scientists tapped to receive the five-year, $1 million award, established by Keck to provide resources to promising young scientists in pursuit of groundbreaking biomedical research.

Shou, an assistant member of the Center's Basic Sciences Division, studies social interactions between cells. Her lab set up an artificial system in which two sets of yeast cells are forced to cooperate when each lacks the ability to make an essential nutrient required for life. Each strain's essential nutrient is available in the other, so the two organisms can live together but not on their own. The system accommodates ongoing, quantitative measurements of population size and interaction and is compatible with mathematical modeling.

Shou and her colleagues are now investigating what happens when a third type of cell, a "cheater," which requires a nutrient but gives nothing back, is introduced into the system. The lab also looks into the role of spatial structure in stabilizing cooperation among cells.

Shou completed her postdoctoral work in quantitative biology at the Rockefeller University and in computational biology at Memorial Sloan-Ketting Cancer Center. She earned her doctorate from the California Institute of Technology.

Other Young Scholars awardees from the Hutchinson Center have included Adrian Ferre-D'Amare, Ph.D., of the Basic Sciences Division (2003) and Bruce Clurman, M.D., Ph.D., of the Clinical Research and Human Biology divisions (1999).

The W.M. Keck Foundation is a leading supporter of high-impact medical research, science and engineering. Established in 1998, the Keck Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research program was designed to support groundbreaking research addressing the fundamental mechanisms of human disease. 54 young investigators have received funding. More information about the Keck Foundation and its Young Scholars program is available at

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit

    Christi Ball Loso

SOURCE Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
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