Dr. Keenan Hartert, Assistant Professor
PhD | Faculty
- B.A. Carleton College, Ph.D. University of Nebraska Medical Center
Cancer, Clinical Genomics, and Molecular Biology
I am interested in the assignment of personalized lymphoma therapeutics based on genetically-characterized tumor biology profiles. My studies have primarily focused on understanding the most common type of lymphoma: Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL), which accounts for 30,000 new patients every year. Although approximately 50% of these patients can expect long-term remission after standard Rituximab + CHOP chemotherapy combination therapy, those that relapse or refract treatment face a poor prognosis.
Lymphomas and leukemias present a unique challenge since they do not form a single, solid tumor in a concentrated area. Equally challenging, DLBCL tumors can evolve from distinct genetic origins that result in heterogeneous biological profiles, a challenge for clinicians. Using genomics, we hope to define the genetic landscape(s) of these tumors and assign a targeted therapy that best addresses the inherent weaknesses of that biological profile. Applying lessons and principles from Ecology and Evolution to this forefront of Molecular Biology can increase our understanding of tumors as genetically-defined populations and is one of my personal favorite cross-discipline connections. Measuring the efficacy of novel therapeutic agents via human cell line models provides the perfect preclinical environment for discovering new pathways for addressing vulnerable patient populations that would reject standard therapies.
My main strategies and how students can join are listed below:
#1 Identify genomic drivers of disease via bioinformatic analyses.
Students can utilize public data to discover new genetic targets in in lymphoma. These discoveries are incredibly exciting and freely sought with the wealth of publicly available genomics data.
#2 Validate functional mechanisms in cell line models.
Students will be able to test and manipulate human cell line models to make exciting new conclusions, possibly following up on their bioinformatics findings. Examining how genetic targets are manifesting effects inside the cell is key to understanding how to treat this heterogenous disease.
#3 Translate results to a targeted therapy.
There is a massive need for pre-clinical validation of DLBCL therapies, especially for discovering synergy between compounds. Students could treat cell line models with combinations of therapies to uncover data that could translate directly to the clinic. Specifically, my lab will focus on therapies that have been sparsely used in humans but carry immense promise: Proteolysis-targeting Chimeras (PROTACs).
#4 Harness genomics to personalize clinical treatment.
The advent of genetically-personalized medicine is upon us, and students could complete integrative analyses in which they identify populations of benefit based on DNA/RNA/Clinical profiles.
Reading, History, Hiking, Running, Wildlife, and my dog Scout.