CMNST DDLS - Dr. Hakima Amri

Thursday, May 1, 2014 -
11:00am to 12:00pm

An Evolution-Based Approach to Early Cancer Detection: PHYLOMICS ©

Dr. Hakima Amri, Associate Professor

Department of Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Georgetown University Medical Center

This is the final installment of the CMNST Dean's Distinguished Lecturer Series. This lecture takes place in Mishoe Science Center North 139 @ 11 a.m.. 

All are welcome to attend.


Parsimony phylogenetics is a method widely-used in biology fields such as botany, zoology, and microbiology to construct the relationships amoung taxa and microbial strains based on their shared derived characters. While it is well-accepted now that cancer is an evolutionary disease, the analytical tools available remain incompatible to this concept. By employing phylogenetics to high throughput cancer data: genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics -- a method we named Phylomics©, we were able to produce the classification of specimens from the healthiest to the most diseased, define the subjects at risk of developing cancer,, hence the early detection, and predict their response to treatment.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Amri, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology at Georgetown University and is the co-founder and co-director of the Integrative Medicine master’s program in Physiology, one of its kind graduate program in the United States that combines human physiology and integrative medicine. She is presently serving as Chair of the Teaching and Pedagogy Subcommittee of the Faculty Development Committee and on the Committee of Evaluation and Assessment of the medical courses offered at the Georgetown University Medical School.

Dr. Amri graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Animal and Developmental Biology from the University of Constantine, Algeria. After successfully completing the nationwide science competition (ranked first in the nation), she received a Franco-Algerian scholarship to pursue her graduate education at Pierre and Marie Curie University, Jussieu, Paris 6 where she obtained a Master’s of Science in Reproductive Biology and a PhD in Biochemistry. 

Dr. Amri’s research bridges evidence-based biomedicine and science-based integrative medicine to study hormone-dependent cancers. She is currently applying systems biology approaches to cancer omics data (genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics) and diagnostic biomarkers discovery. Dr. Amri developed a novel analytical method based on applying parsimony phylogenetics called Phylomics® to heterogeneous high-throughput data of microarrays and mass spectrometry. This cladistics approach that is anchored in biological concepts provides the step-by-step molecular stratification from healthy to disease and offers the shared derived characters as biomarkers. Her work has sorted clonal aberrations from non-expanding mutations in prostate cancer, which is leading to the identification of key biomarkers to be developed as diagnostics. Because of its dynamic nature, Phylomics® detects those at risk of developing cancer, allows early detection, and evaluates treatment response. Her other line of research is in Phytomedicine  where she showed that treatment of nude mice with Ginkgo biloba extract significantly reduced the size of breast tumor xenografts. Similarly, she found that saw palmetto extract, commonly used for prostate health, reduced prostae cancer cell proliferation in vitro, and prostae cancer xenografts, in vivo. And she identified a novel cell death mechanism that was different from apoptosis, necrosis, autophagy, and mitotic catastrophe.  Dr. Amri is currently characterizing this new cell death mechanism.

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