News & Events

Taubman-funded research offers breast tumor insights

Research assisted with a grant from the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute has led to new insights into a rare form of breast tumor.

A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center characterizes the genetic underpinnings of a type of breast tumor called phyllodes tumors, offering the first comprehensive analysis of the molecular alterations at work in these tumors.

Scott Tomlins, M.D., Ph.D.The analysis uses next-generation sequencing with a novel panel developed by ThermoFisher Scientific, called the Oncomine Cancer Research Panel, that allows researchers to identify alterations in more than 100 genes from archived tissue samples.

“We know little about the biology of phyllodes tumors. In part, they have not been studied much because it's difficult to accumulate a large number of samples. Using these new sequencing techniques, we were able to study archived tissue samples, which allowed us to identify enough samples to perform a meaningful analysis,” says study author Scott A. Tomlins, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and urology at the University of Michigan Medical School

Tomlins was appointed the A. Alfred Taubman Emerging Scholar in 2014.  The institute's Emerging Scholars Program supports the laboratory work of junior faculty at the U-M medical school, to help them establsih themselves in the dual role of clincian-scientist.

Phyllodes tumors represent about 1 percent of all types of breast tumors. Most are benign but they do have the potential to become metastatic. Currently, there are no good ways to reliably predict which tumors are likely to recur or spread after initial treatment. Once phyllodes tumors become metastatic, there are few effective treatments.

Researchers looked at 15 samples of phyllodes tumors, pulled from archived tissue samples at the University of Michigan. The samples were equally divided according to their classification, with five considered benign, five borderline and five malignant. While still a small sample, it can be sufficient with a rare tumor to identify genetic clues to the tumor’s biology. The researchers sequenced the samples against a panel of genes known to have some function or role in cancer.

They found two genes, EGFR and IGF1R, that were amplified in multiple malignant phyllodes tumors. Therapies have already been developed against EGFR and IGF1R proteins and tested in other cancers. Results from this study support evaluating these therapies in phyllodes tumors as well.

In addition, the researchers found the gene MED12 was frequently mutated in all classifications of phyllodes tumors. This gene also plays a role in some rare gynecological tumors that are related to phyllodes tumors. The researchers believe MED12 could be involved with tumor initiation.

Results of the study appear in Molecular Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Even though phyllodes tumors are rare, it’s important to have good treatment options for the aggressive cases. The first step is understanding the underlying biology of these tumors,” Tomlins says. “Further study and validation is needed, but our work has identified several promising targets involved in phyllodes tumors.”

Familial ALS strikes generations of Metro Detroit kin

A Dec.19 column by Detroit News writer Marney Rich Keenan explores the toll of a familial form of  ALS on multiple generations of one Metro Detroit family.  Taubman Institute Director Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D. is physician to some of the individuals and is quoted in the front-page story. 

Sallie Gutherie saw her 26-year-old son's leg twitching and felt she'd been hit by a wrecking ball. Ever the strong matriarch, she said nothing. Even when Lucas pressed her, she shooed away his fears. She assured him: there was no way it was happening again.

Gutherie, 62, who was losing her husband of 29 years, Chuck, to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Diagnosed in May 2012, his decline was rapid and unforgiving. Charles "Chuck" Gutherie died less than a year later on April 12, 2013, at age 60, leaving behind five children and one grandchild.

The topic — Lucas' leg twitching months before his father died — came up at a recent Gutherie family Sunday dinner, a tradition they started when Chuck got sick. Upward of three-dozen relations (the immediate family numbers 15) gather in Sallie and Chuck's trailer in Addison Township where the kids were raised. They feast on potluck dishes in aluminum trays amid hearty laughter, a gaggle of little kids and an uncommon devotion to each other.

"You mean you knew back then?" asked Sallie's daughter and Lucas' stepsister April Thiel, 39.

"Yes," Sallie said quietly, "but I didn't want Dad to know."

"Why didn't you tell us?"

"Well," she answered quietly, wistfully. "I kept thinking there was a chance I was wrong."

The family's worst fears were confirmed on April 28: Lucas is the third generation to test positive for familial ALS, which means the disease is inherited. It was confirmed in a phone call from Dr. Eva Feldman, one of the nation's leading ALS researchers. She is director of the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery at the University of Michigan Health System. Her clinic also treated Lucas' father, Chuck, and several others in the extended family.

In families with genetic or inherited ALS, there is a 50-percent chance each offspring will inherit the gene. With the Gutheries, ALS has run rampant, toppling family members like dominoes. Seven family members, including a grandmother and her son, four siblings and a cousin — ranging in age from 46-61 — all died.

And the hits just keep coming. At least two dozen other Gutherie descendants — including Lucas' younger sister, his aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews — also are at risk of carrying the gene mutation. Layla Gutherie, the 20-month-old daughter of Lucas and his wife Shawna, is the fourth generation to possibly face the ALS scourge.

Click here to read the entire Detroit News article.




Visiting professor lecture set for Jan. 15

M. Geoffrey Rosenfeld, M.D. will visit Ann Arbor on Jan. 15, 2015 as a Taubman Institute Visiting Professor.

Dr. Rosenfeld, a renowned investigator in the field of gene expression, will present at Ophthalmology Grand Rounds at 7:30 a.m. at the Kellogg Eye Center.

He also is the featured speaker at the Vision Research Seminar at noon the same day; the lecture will take place in the Kahn Auditorium of the A.Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building.  All are welcome to attend, no registration required.

The title of his talk is "Regulatory Strategies of Enhancers and Chromosomal Boundaries in Learning/ Memory and Neurodegenerative Disease."

Dr. Rosenfeld is Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine; an adjunct professor of biology in the Division of Biological Sciences at UCSD; and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He also is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Click here to read more about his research. 


Detroit News: Dr. Feldman's stem cell tests show promise in mice with Alzheimer's disease

As reported in the Nov. 11 edition of the Detroit News, Taubman Institute Director Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., is testing a stem cell treatment in laboratory mice with Alzheimer's disease.

Results of one recent experiment show that the animals engineered to have the disease performed as well as normal mice in memory tests, following the injection of stem cells to the brains of the diseased mice. 

"Those animals retained their ability to think, as a mouse does, to recognize objects so they looked just like an animal that doesn't have Alzheimer's disease," Feldman said. "It's really remarkable."

Click here to read the complete Detroit News article. 

Institute welcomes Dr. Robin Ali as Nov. 5 visiting professor

Robin Ali, Ph.D., a pioneer in the use of gene therapy and stem cells to restore damaged retinas, will speak in Ann Arbor on Nov. 5 as part of the Taubman Institute's Visiting Professor program.

Dr. Ali, professor of human molecular genetics and head of the Department of Genetics at University College London, is a leader in the study of experimental techniques to address conditions like macular degeneration and inherited retinal degeneration. He recently has initiated a human clinical trial, among the first of its kind, of a gene therapy for a severe childhood-onset form of retinal disease.

This lecture, "Gene and cell therapy for retinal degeneration: a vision for the future," is presented jointly by the Taubman Institute and the Departments of Neurology and Ophthalmology.

No registration is required to attend the talk, which will take place from 9:30-10:30 a.m. in the Danto Auditorium of the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.  One CME credit is available for physicians. 



Dr. Eva Feldman elected to prestigious Institute of Medicine

Taubman Institute Director Eva L. Feldman, M.D., Ph.D. is among six University of Michigan faculty members to be elected this year to the he Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

The new IOM members were elected in recognition of their major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.

Dr. Feldmanis an internationally renowned expert in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  She has devoted her career to finding new therapies and treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, and is at the forefront of applying stem cell research to human disease.

“This is truly an incredible honor,” Dr. Feldman said. “But more than anything it validates the hard work and dedication of our research and clinic teams at the University of Michigan. They are second to none, and I am fortunate to work with each end every one of them in our quest to understand and treat these confounding neurological disorders.”

As a clinician-scientist, Dr. Feldman treats patients and also directs the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery (, a laboratory staffed by some 30 scientists who are deciphering the mysteries of conditions ranging from diabetic nerve damage to Alzheimer's disease. She is director of research for the U-M ALS clinic and is the principal investigator of the first-ever FDA-approved human clinical trial of a stem cell therapy for ALS. The second phase of the trial is complete and Dr. Feldman anticipates moving to a broader test of the therapy in 2015. She has more than 23 years of continuous NIH funding and is currently the principal or co-investigator of five major National Institutes of Health research grants and three private foundation grants as well as the author of more than 300 original peer-reviewed articles, 59 book chapters and three books.

Dr. Feldman is one of six University of Michigan experts elected to the IOM this year, bringing to 59 the total of U-M faculty members who have been elected to the IOM. Also elected this year:

  • Gonçalo R. Abecasis, the Felix E. Moore Collegiate Professor of Biostatistics and chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the School of Public Health.
  • Carol R. Bradford, M.D., chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Medical School.
  • Charles J. Krause, M.D., Collegiate Professor of Otolaryngology.
  • Mark Fendrick, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the Medical School and a professor of health management and policy at the School of Public Health.
  • Susan A. Murphy, the H.E. Robbins Distinguished University Professor of Statistics, professor of psychiatry and research professor at the Institute for Social Research.
  • Kathleen M. Potempa, dean and professor at the School of Nursing.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public.  Established in 1970, the IOM is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which was chartered under President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Nearly 150 years later, the National Academy of Sciences has expanded into what is collectively known as the National Academies, which comprises the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Research Council, and the IOM.

New members are elected by current active members through a selective process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.  A diversity of talent among IOM's membership is assured by the Institute's charter, which stipulates that at least one-quarter of the membership is selected from outside the health professions, for example, from such fields as the law, engineering, social sciences, and the humanities.  The newly elected members raise IOM's total active membership to 1,798 and the number of foreign associates to 128.  With an additional 86 members holding emeritus status, IOM's total membership is 2,012.

Taubman Institute to host renowned RNA researcher for Oct. 1 lecture

One of the world's foremost molecular biologists will speak Oct. 1 in Ann Arbor as part of the A.Alfred Taubman Institute's Visiting Professor Lecture Series.

Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D., of Yale University will deliver her talk "Noncoding RNAs: with a Viral Twist" at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 4 p.m. in the Danto Auditorium of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center. 

Dr. Steitz is best known for her pioneering work in RNA. She and her student Michael Lerner discovered and defined the function of small ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) in pre-messenger RNA — the earliest product of DNA transcription — and was the first to learn that these cellular complexes (snRNPs) play a key role in processing messenger RNA by excising noncoding regions and splicing together the resulting segments.

Her breakthroughs into the previously mysterious splicing process have clarified the science behind the formation of proteins and other biological processes, including the intricate changes that occur as the immune system and brain develop.

Dr. Steitz earned her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1967. After completing postdoctoral work in Cambridge, England, she joined the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale as an assistant professor and later became an associate and full professor, as well as chair of the department. Her current appointment at Yale is Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry.  She also is a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator.

All are welcome to attend the one-hour lecture; no registration is required. 

The University of Michigan Medical School designates this live activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit (tm).

Taubman Scholar Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan among world's most-cited researchers

A newly-published roster of the most-cited researchers in the world includes Taubman Scholar Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D. among the 27 University of Michigan researchers who made the list. 

Having one's publications cited frequently by other investigators and researchers is a sign that one's work is "ground-breaking and influential," according to Thomson Reuters, the information company that published the study, "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds."  Being included on the list signifies that the researchers are considered in the top 1 percent of people in their respective fields, which span all disciplines from

Dr. Chinnaiyan, a professor of urology at the University of Michigan Medical School, is a noted expert in the genetics of prostate cancer.  He also serves as the S.P. Hicks Endowed Professor of Pathology and director of the U-M Center for Translational Pathology.  He was appointed a Taubman Scholar in 2011. 

New U-M president visits Taubman Institute

The Feldman Lab at the Taubman Institute hosted a fellow clinician-scientist on Aug. 22 when the University of Michigan’s new president paid a visit to the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building.

Mark Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician and renowned biomedical researcher whose focus is n the developmental biology of the immune system. He became the University of Michigan’s 14th President on July 1, succeeding Mary Sue Coleman, Ph.D., who retired after 12 years of leading the university.

Dr. Schlissel, accompanied by U-M Medical School Dean James Wolliscroft, met with Taubman Institute Director Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D. for an   introduction to the work her lab is doing in regenerative medicine, including stem cell therapies for ALS, and in the fields of diabetes and neuropathy. During the tour he exchanged questions and answers with a number of research fellows and scientists.

Prior to joining the University of Michigan, Dr. Schlissel was provost at Brown University. Before moving to Brown in 2011, Dr. Schlissel was University of California at Berkeley’s Dean of Biological Sciences in the College of Letters & Science and held the C.H. Li Chair in Biochemistry.

He earned his undergraduate degree at Princeton University and earned both his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

Dr. Schlissel will be formally inaugurated on Sept. 5; related events will include a symposium on the topic “Sustaining the Biomedical Research Enterprise."  Click here for the schedule of public events

Taubman Institute 7th annual symposium set for Oct. 10

The A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute will award the 2014 $100,000 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science at its 7th annual symposium at 10 a.m. on Oct. 10.

Dr. Carl June, a physician-scientist who developed a personalized immunotherapy for leukemia using patients’ own T cells, will receive the honor and deliver the symposium's keynote address.

The treatment he designed is credited as the first successful and sustained demonstration of the use of gene transfer therapy to turn the body’s own immune cells into weapons aimed at cancerous tumors.

The research is considered a landmark breakthrough in treating blood cancers that have stopped responding to conventional therapies, or for patients who are not candidates for bone marrow transplants, which carry a high mortality risk.

The symposium also will feature presentations by Taubman Scholars including:

John Carethers, M.D., John G. Searle Professor and Chair, Department of Internal Medicine



Kathleen Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Internal Medicine



Pavan Reddy. M.D., Moshe Talpaz Professor of Translational Oncology



The lectures will be preceded by a scientific poster session and coffee hour.  All events will take place in the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building in Ann Arbor. 

No registration is required.  



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