Alex Kentsis received undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago, where he conducted research in the laboratory of Tobin Sosnick. He earned a Ph.D. from New York University, where he worked with Katherine Borden, and an M.D. from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where his advisor was Roman Osman. He completed research and clinical fellowships at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he later became an attending physician, as well as an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He joined the faculties of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College in 2013. In addition to being a Rita Allen Foundation Scholar, Kentsis has received a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Clinical Investigator Award, an American Society for Clinical Investigation Physician-Scientist Award, an American Society of Hematology Scholar Award and a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists.
Genome sequencing efforts have revealed a surprising dearth of gene mutations in many human cancers, suggesting that alternative oncogenic mechanisms must be investigated to identify targets for improved therapy. Approximately half of the human genome originates from mobile DNA elements, or transposons, but their contributions to human disease and physiology remain almost completely unexplored. Kentsis aims to investigate mechanisms of tumorigenesis by a novel human DNA transposase in embryonal tumors, lethal childhood cancers that are refractory to intensive chemotherapy. Successful completion of proposed studies promises to transform our ability to identify the drivers of human cancer, thus leading to improved targeted therapies for these refractory pediatric tumors. This work will also establish powerful tools for the investigation of DNA transposition and genomic plasticity, with transformative applications in wide areas of human biology.