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Young Investigator: Aram Ko

By November 12, 2020December 18th, 2023Science & Research, SWN

Earlier this year, we announced a $750,000 investment in promising young investigators, providing support to their innovative NF research projects. Now, we’re introducing some of these researchers: Aram Ko (Columbia University) tells us about life in a research lab and what this funding from CTF means to her.



Tell us about life in a research lab. What’s a typical day look like?

A typical day in a research lab includes designing and performing experiments, analyzing data, reading papers, attending meeting, and discussing projects. I always start the day by going through my experimental schedule that I planned the previous day. I conduct all experiments that I scheduled and when I get the results, I spend time analyzing the data and designing further experiments to improve this result or to take the next step for proving the hypothesis. We have a lab meeting regularly to present works in progress, share information and discuss projects. I search and read papers to follow up the recent studies. I finish off the day in a lab with planning the details of experiments for the next day.

What are you hoping to learn from this project?

This project is focused on defining unknown biological function and mechanism of LZTR1 tumor suppressor, whose mutations have been found in schwannomatosis, glioblastoma and several types of sporadic tumors.

LZTR1 codes for a protein, which functions as substrate adaptor in CUL3 E3 ubiquitin ligase complexes. Previous studies identified that LZTR1 inhibits MAPK pathway, but the full scope of LZTR1 cellular functions are far from being clear.

Thus, it is paramount to continue to focus on the identification of new LZTR1 substrates for the investigation of the functional significance of mutant LZTR1 in tumor development in schwannomatosis and other cancer types.

We are anticipating that this research can define defective mechanism and biological functions in LZTR1 mutated cancers in a comprehensive manner, and will contribute to understanding the roles of LZTR1 loss of function in pathogenesis of neural tumors. The identification of the targets of LZTR1 function to preserve cell and tissue balance has the potential to advance the development of personalized cancer therapy for patients harboring LZTR1 mutant cancers.

What does it mean to you to receive this funding from CTF?

It is a great pleasure and honor to receive Young Investigator Award from CTF. Receiving this fund means a lot to me. It tells me that my proposed project is promising NF research and have potential for contributing to the development of new treatments for patients. And this funding would award me an opportunity to pursue this research with confidence and pride.

Most importantly, this funding reminded me of a very important thing, which is not easy to keep and that I sometimes forget while I am engrossed in experiments and tied to outcomes. It is that the ultimate goal of my research is contributing to saving lives or improving quality of life of patients. This award made me more motivated and reminds me that I am working to save lives.

What brought you to the NF research field?

I have been interested in studying mechanisms and functions of tumor suppressors and oncoproteins in cancer development with the goal of contributing to identifying novel therapeutic approaches. When I joined the current laboratory, I was particularly attracted by the broad and deep expertise in neural cancer and the focus on genetic and mechanistic studies of neurofibromatosis syndromes. The still unclear function of LZTR1, one of the genes whose mutation in the germ line predispose to schwannomatosis, was a great opportunity to apply my technical skill and knowledge to the understanding of the LZTR1 function while enhancing my knowledge of the clinical and genetics aspects of the disease.

What do you like to do when you’re not in the lab?

I spend most of my time with my husband. We like to explore new restaurants and cafés and go to museums. And we used to work out in the gym together after work. However, there have been some changes in the way we spend time because of the Covid-19 pandemic. These days we have been avoiding from being outside the home and instead, we have been enjoying our time at home watching movies or baking bread, our new hobby.

For more information about funding opportunities from the Children’s Tumor Foundation, click here.