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Winship Cancer Institute, Emory hire biologist with star power

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One of the nation's pre-eminent molecular biologists has joined the Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute. William S. Dynan, PhD, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, has joined Emory as Professor of Radiation Oncology and Biochemistry.   

Dynan's research focuses on repairing double-strand breaks that occur in DNA from ionizing radiation. Such studies hold promise in cancer treatment because selective inhibition of DNA repair in tumor cells provides a strategy to increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy, while limiting normal tissue damage. Dynan's research also has applications for gene correction for sickle cell disease.

"The exciting thing is the strength of Emory's current cancer biology focus. We're going to push this to a whole new level," says Dynan. "One of the things that really excites me is this joint appointment with biochemistry and radiation oncology. Emory and Winship are going to be great places to do our research."

Dynan already is working with Winship investigator Ya Wang and other faculty on a NASA-funded grant to explore whether the biological stress response and complex DNA damage that result from high charge and energy (HZE) particle radiation amplifies cancer risk among space and high-altitude air travelers. The question isn't merely academic or geared only to astronauts; it raises the question of whether frequent fliers could be at higher risk for cancer.

Dynan comes to Emory and Winship from Georgia Health Sciences University, where he served as associate director for research in the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics. Prior to joining GHSU, Dynan was an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

He has been a principal investigator on numerous NIH-funded studies. He currently is principal investigator on a U.S. Department of Energy Low Dose Radiation Research Program study to investigate the influence of specific DNA damage surveillance and repair pathways on radiation-induced genomic instability. He also is principal investigator on a National Cancer Institute study to investigate the role of a family of RNA binding proteins that have a dual function in DNA double-strand break repair.

"We are thrilled to have Bill Dynan, who is one of the most highly regarded molecular biologists in the country, join our already outstanding team of scientists at Winship," says Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, executive director of Winship Cancer Institute and Lawrence W. Davis Chair of Radiation Oncology. "As a radiation oncologist, I am particularly excited that his life's work has applications on ways in which we can help deliver life-saving radiation therapy."

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