Justyna Kanska is a Postdoctoral Scientist in the Center for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She earned her M.Sc. in Molecular Biotechnology at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology in Poland, and received her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology at National University of Ireland, Galway.
During her doctoral studies in Dr. Uri Frank’s laboratory, she worked with the cnidarian model organism Hydractinia to identify the role of Nanos and Myc genes in stem cell lineage commitment and differentiation. In particular, Dr. Kanska found that Nanos plays a crucial role in neural cell fate determination, which was unknown prior to these studies. These results are highly relevant in the field of developmental biology, since the evolution of nervous system and mechanisms of maturation of neural progenitors remains poorly understood. For her studies on the Nanos gene, Dr. Kanska was awarded the Thomas Crawford Hayes Research Fund, as well as First Prize for best oral presentation in the “Regenerative Medicine” session at the Irish Young Life Scientists Symposium.
During her postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Wolf R. Wiedemeyer at Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program, Dr. Kanska studied the biology and vulnerabilities of the mesenchymal subtype of High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer (HGSOC). Her research was focused on the role of ETV5, NNMT, and nutritional stress in the evolution, metastasis and drug resistance of HGSOC. Dr. Kanska’s work on the NNMT gene was recognized by the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research and the American Association for Cancer Research on the 11th Biennial Ovarian Cancer Research Symposium, where Dr. Kanska was awarded the competitive Scholar-in Training Award. Currently, her work in Dr. Gayther’s laboratory is focused on modeling early genetic events contributing to oncogenic transformation of ovarian cancer precursor cells, as well as identifying targetable synthetic lethal genes for these genetic events. p53 mutation was found to be ubiquitously shared among all HGSOC patients, and thus, one of Dr. Kanska’s research projects focuses on identifying synthetic lethality for p53-mutant fallopian tube epithelial cells. Dr. Kanska believes that studying these ovarian cancer precursor models will allow her to find prophylactic targets in order to eliminate pre-cancerous p53-mutant cells before cancer arises. In her research, she is employing high-throughput CRISPR/Cas9 screens to functionally address these biological questions. Clinically, her studies provide a strong potential for development of novel and much needed therapeutic targets for HGSOC.