Working to Kill Cancer

Cole Haynes receives Alumni Award from School of Biological Sciences

Scientist Cole Haynes runs a laboratory that made an important biological discovery that is opening up a new area of research in treating cancer and aging.

Haynes, who received his doctorate in 2003 in cell biology and biophysics from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, works in a lab that identified a new gene involved in regulating mitochondria, the compartments in cells where most of the energy is made. Mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to aging and cancer cell proliferation.

In his lab, Haynes, a professor at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell Medical Center in New York City, pursues strategies to manipulate mitochondrial function to protect aging cells and kill certain cancers.

For his work, Haynes is receiving a 2014 Alumni Achievement Award from the UMKC School of Biological Sciences.

“My eventual career path was essentially cemented when I entered graduate school at UMKC and got into a laboratory, where I was able to design and perform experiments that addressed how cells work,” Haynes said. “It was fantastic when I realized a job exists that entails designing and performing experiments to gain insight into medically important aspects of biology.”

In identifying the new gene, Haynes’ lab used a combination of genetics, biochemistry and cell biology to discover how cells evaluate mitochondrial function and turn on an adaptive program — increasing the regulation of other genes — when dysfunction arises. The work was published in the prestigious journal Science.

“Discovering something completely new about the inner workings of a cell is extremely rare, but when it happens, it is thrilling,” Haynes said. “We hope that by continuing to study this pathway, we can gain insight into how best to manipulate mitochondrial health in a therapeutically useful way, and impact age-associated diseases.”

Haynes’ award at UMKC, and those of the other alumni honorees, one from each school and the five university-wide awards of distinction, will be presented at the 2014 Alumni Awards luncheon on April 24. For information and tickets for the event, visit the 2014 Alumni Awards web page.


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