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Genetics researcher at Children's Hospital selected as Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Vivian Cheung, M.D., a pediatric neurologist at The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Following a nationwide competition in 2007, Cheung was one of 15 physician-scientists selected recently by the prestigious research organization.

Like all those chosen, Dr. Cheung focuses on translating research discoveries into improved medical treatments.

We are extremely pleased and proud of the fact that one of our pediatricians was honored by one of the worlds leading biomedical research institutions, said Philip R. Johnson, M.D., chief scientific officer and senior vice president of Children's Hospital. This appointment recognizes Dr. Cheungs accomplishments in advancing genetic discovery.

Cheung investigates how the sequence of DNA units in a persons chromosomes affects that persons susceptibility to disease. She uses microarray technology to rapidly measure how strongly genes are expressed within cells. By determining how gene expression changes in response to drugs and other treatments, she discovers how each patients DNA variations are associated with the effectiveness of their disease treatments.

Her goal is to help physicians predict how a patient will respond to a given drug or treatment, based on the patients particular genetic profile. Ultimately, providing refined genetic tools may remove some of the guesswork in making treatment decisions and in providing the best preventive and therapeutic care.

Trained in neurology, Cheung has a specific interest in a neurogenetic disease called ataxia telangiectasia, which affects movement, muscle control, the immune system and susceptibility to cancer. Because different children may react very differently to their treatments, her research aims to customize treatment to a patients genetic profile, thus minimizing side effects and providing maximum benefits. Cheungs studies could be applied to a broad range of common and uncommon diseases, in using genetic tools to eventually routinely guide physicians and patients to better treatments.

As a pediatrician at Childrens Hospital, Cheung is continuing to work at the Hospital and has become an employee of HHMI, which provides a research budget and funding for laboratory space. Cheung remains an associate professor of Pediatrics and Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

After earning her M.D. degree from Tufts University School of Medicine, Cheung completed her residency at the UCLA Medical Center, before coming to The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia in 1996. She holds the William Wikoff Smith Endowed Chair in Pediatric Genomic Research at Childrens Hospital, where she leads an NIH-funded laboratory.


Contact: John Ascenzi
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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