Devon A. Lawson

Devon Lawson performed her doctoral work at UCLA in the laboratory of Dr. Owen Witte, where she pioneered methods for the identification of stem cells in the murine prostate and studied their role in prostate cancer initiation and progression (Lawson D.A. et al., PNAS, 2010; Lawson D.A. et al., PNAS, 2007). As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Zena Werb’s lab at UCSF, she continued studying epithelial cancers, and focused on investigating how breast cancer cells metastasize, since metastatic disease is the cause of nearly all breast cancer related deaths worldwide. In particular, she has been developing and applying new single-cell approaches to study cellular diversity in metastatic breast cancer cells using human patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models of the disease. She has focused on identifying gene expression programs specific to metastasis-initiating cells (MICs), and found that such cells possess gene expression characteristics of normal mammary epithelial stem cells (Lawson D.A. et al., Nature, 2015). The overarching goals of her continuing work are to understand the cellular and molecular basis of metastasis initiation and progression, and to use new insights to identify drug targets for directly preventing or controlling metastatic growth and dissemination.

Education

University of California, San Francisco

Postdoctoral fellow
Advisor: Zena Werb, Ph.D.
Breast cancer metastasis

University of California, Los Angeles

Doctoral student
Advisor: Owen Witte, MD
Prostate stem cells and prostate cancer

University of California, at Davis

Undergraduate student
Degree: Biological sciences, Genetics
Lab Advisor: Wolf-Dietrich Heyer
DNA repair in S. cerevisiae

Awards

NIH NCI K22: Transition Career Development Award

Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Postdoctoral fellowship

UCLA Graduate Division Dissertation Year fellowship

NIH Tumor Cell Biology Graduate student fellowship

NIH Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Student fellowship (declined)

Science Advocacy

RA_logo Advocating for science funding to public policymakers is critical for the advancement of science and medicine in the U.S. and worldwide. Dr. Lawson first became interested in science advocacy as a postdoc fellow at UCSF, where she participated in local and national lobbying efforts with the UAW 5810, The Union for Postdocs at University of California. Research!America is a lobby group supported by UAW, whose mission is to increase public awareness and support for medical research and innovation. Check out Dr. Lawson’s Research!America statement online.

Community support

tri valley socks logoAn estimated 150,000 women are living with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. today, and every year 40,000 women succumb to the disease. This means that all of us are touched by it somehow, either personally or through a family member or close friend. Active support of the breast cancer patient community is therefore a critical part of our research program. Communication with patients helps inform the types of questions we ask in the lab and how we ask them. As such, we participate in annual breast cancer walks and advocacy groups, such as the Tri Valley Socks walk shown below.

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