Visionaries – Chapter 2: Dr. Cigall Kadoch

Please enjoy Chapter 2 of this series, where I am featuring ten, remarkable visionaries that are working hard to improve, accelerate or invent new ways of doing things…all for the benefit of humankind. This second chapter features some remarkable work being done in the fight against cancer by Dr. Cigall Kadoch.

Helping to Expose Vulnerabilities in Cancer


Dr. Cigall Kadoch, 30

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Growing up in the San Francisco area, Cigall Kadoch, PhD, had a real passion for solving puzzles. The daughter of a mother from Michigan who, along with Kadoch’s Moroccan-born, Israeli-raised father, developed an interior design business, Kadoch excelled in school and pretty much everything else. Above all, she loved to solve brainteasers. And no doubt…cancer is the ultimate brainteaser.

The main issue facing cancer researchers today is that the exact, biochemical mechanisms involved in many kinds of cancer remain a mystery. Without identifying such mechanisms it is, essentially, impossible to fight and beat a given type of cancer. The work being done by our focus visionary today, Cigall Kadoch, is serving to bridge this information gap. Much like solving a crime…it’s MUCH easier to bring in a perpetrator if you know who they are. Cancer is no different.

The Solution from Ms. Kadoch

While enrolled at Stanford and completing her PhD, Dr. Kadoch discovered a link between a rare cancer called synovial sarcoma and a genome regulator in cells call the BAF protein complex (BAF). She, and her colleagues, were later able to show that mutations of BAF are involved in at least 20% of human cancers. Such a discovery opened the door for research on drugs and therapies that specifically target mutated BAFs.

Dr. Cigall Kadoch, (left), heads a team of about 15 investigators in hot pursuit of cancer.

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The function of the BAF’s job in a cell is to open and close DNA to allow the correct genes to be expressed at the right time. According to Dr. Kadoch, who has appointments at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT:

“When a mutation occurs to the BAF, it can activate sites that it shouldn’t, including genes that drive cancer.”

Dr. Kadoch learned about this BAF marker by focusing in on one particular subunit of BAF. The subunit is a particular piece of protein that has a deformed tail in 100% of patients that have synovial sarcoma. By placing the deformed subunit into normal cells, Dr. Kadoch noted that she detected “blazing cancer.” She explains, “That little tail is entirely responsible for this cancer.”

Fortunately, the mutated tail is reversible. If Kadoch added enough normal pieces of the subunit to cells in a petri dish, it replaced the mutated form, killing the cancerous cells in the process. Viola!

Upcoming for Dr. Kadoch & This Groundbreaking Research

Dr. Kadoch has a 12-person team in her Boston lab and they are searching now for new drugs targeted at BAF. Such research might not only help kids with synovial sarcoma, but also other patients. Kadoch has noted that around 25% of cancers might be caused, at least in part, by BAF-related mutations. She has said:

“It’s an amazing thing going from leading your own efforts to leading with a whole group behind you.”

Dr. Kadoch will be on stage at the Forbes Under 30 Summit on October 21, as part of a panel on the future of medicine, called Tomorrow’s Medicine Today. Check it out here.

Chapter 1 of this series on Visionaries, featuring SpaceX’s Lars Blackmore, can be found here.

Chapter 3 of this series on Visionaries, featuring crop science expert Dr. Johnathan Dalzell, can be found here.

Chapter 4 of this series on Visionaries, featuring Zakir Durumeric, can be found here

Contact the author of this article here.

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