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Young Investigator: Isabelle Logan

By November 2, 2021January 17th, 2024Awards & Grants

The Young Investigator Award, initiated in 1985, is the Children’s Tumor Foundation’s longest-running award program, and provides two-year salary support to early-career NF researchers to help them get established as independent NF investigators. Since its inception, several YIAs have made groundbreaking research findings and notable publications through this program, and many have advanced to become leaders in the NF research and clinical communities.

New for 2021, additional funding and duration has been available, extending the support to span 3 years. Now, we’re introducing some of these researchers: Isabelle Logan tells us about her research and being part of the community.


What are you hoping to learn from this project?

Our lab studies the role played by oxidants and oxidized proteins in the development and growth of tumors that develop in NF2. The powerful oxidant peroxynitrite is produced by schwannoma cells, and leads to subsequent protein tyrosine nitration, a modification to proteins that occurs in pathological conditions. We discovered these modified proteins are essential for NF2 schwannoma cell survival, and are not present in normal tissues. Therefore, we believe these modified proteins are novel targets for the development of new long-term therapeutic approaches for NF2 patients. In particular, we hope to provide a comprehensive overview of the genes and signaling pathways regulated by these modified proteins. Doing so could uncover additional targets for drug screening. Altogether, we hope to establish nitrated proteins as a new category of tumor-directed targets for the development of effective NF2 treatments, that could be extended to NF1 and Schwannomatosis in the future.


What are your long-term research goals?

My long-term research goals are to become an expert in redox signaling as it relates to nervous system tumor biology, and to combine current knowledge in redox biology with groundbreaking progress in immunology. Ultimately, I would love to harness the patient’s own immune system to fight tumor development. Doing so would allow for the development of noninvasive tumor treatments, a boon for patients. I would love to improve the life of NF patients, perhaps find a cure. The production of oxidants such as peroxynitrite, and the presence of nitrated proteins is common to many solid tumors. Therefore, I want to expand my current work in NF2 to NF1 and Schwannomatosis in the future.


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

As my research involves culturing both primary cells and cell lines, I arrive in the lab before the workday starts, and take care of all the cell culture models. This includes changing culture media, splitting confluent cells, or adding treatments. Once the cells are taken care of my workday begins and is divided into performing my own experiments and training undergraduate students who help me with my research projects. I also meet with my mentor and co-mentors to discuss results and plan future research. Of course, no single day is complete without at least one videoconference meeting.


What brought you to the NF research field?

I was still quite young when I had my first encounter with a neurological disease, when my grandmother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She was 52 years old. As a teenager, I lost my mother to cancer. These life inflection points sparked my need to understand the inner workings of these devastating diseases and contributed to my need for finding new treatment approaches. Therefore, I moved to the USA to seek educational opportunities, which I could never have attained if it wasn’t for those who helped me both emotionally and financially. One of my undergraduate professors provided me with the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree. It was there that I was captivated by the research of Dr. Maria C. Franco. Through her presentations I was introduced to the NF2 field, which I found fascinating. Due to the effects of NF2 on a patient’s life, I made it my goal to ensure NF2 patients are not hampered by the effects of this illness. I do not feel fulfilled in life unless I can improve the lives of others.


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

In no particular order, bake, gardening, read a book, or give old cars a new lease on life. Baking is wonderful, as it brings a smile to everyone in the household, not to mention baked goods are tasty! Gardening is amazing, not only when growing fruits or vegetables, but also flowers. I enjoy growing native plants, especially bee-loving natives. While I haven’t had much time to wrench on cars in recent years, I do take a lot of pride in the little mountain green Volkswagen Rabbit diesel I restored over the course of seven years.


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

The young investigator award from the CTF is the kickstart of my academic career and my career in the NF field. The recognition placed upon me by the CTF means not only an incredible opportunity to contribute towards finding a cure for NF but will also help me prepare to apply for additional funding in the future, with the goal of developing my own research program in NF.


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank all of the donors, sponsors, and volunteers for making the young investigator award possible, and for their support of the mission and vision of the Children’s Tumor Foundation.