Skip to main content
Phase III+: The University is open for expanded research operations; only authorized personnel will be admitted on campus. More info here.

DNA Repair: The Power of Precision Medicine in Treating Cancer

Thursday, May 10, 2018

4:30 PM|
5:00 PM|
6:00 PM|
The Rockefeller University
1230 York Avenue at 66th Street
New York, New York


Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.

The Rockefeller University


Agata Smogorzewska, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Laboratory of Genome Maintenance
The Rockefeller University
Dr. Agata Smogorzewska earned a Ph.D. at Rockefeller working with Dr. Titia de Lange, the University’s Leon Hess Professor, and an M.D. at Weill Cornell Medical College. She conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School and completed a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital before returning to Rockefeller in 2009 to establish the Laboratory of Genome Maintenance. Currently a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Scholar, Dr. Smogorzewska is the recipient of many awards including, most recently, a Doris Duke Clinical Scientist Development Award and a Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research.


Every day, our genes must contend with assaults that can threaten our health. Exposure to the sun’s rays, contact with environmental pollutants, and, especially, the side effects of normal metabolism can damage the genetic material in our cells. In addition, whenever a cell divides, DNA “mistakes” will inevitably occur. If a cell acquires significant levels of DNA damage, the cell will not function properly. It may even become cancerous.

Fortunately, cells have built-in systems equipped to detect and repair errors in DNA, thereby averting cancer. And if repair is not possible, a cell may stop dividing or self-destruct. These crucial mechanisms are controlled by genes, including the well-known BRCA genes. Specific mutations in BRCA genes increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer by jamming the cellular programs that normally repair damaged DNA and limit harm.

If cancer is a failure of prevention, could failed repair systems be manipulated to fight tumors? Recent research suggests that such a strategy could work, leading to precision medicine approaches to cancer treatment. At the 2018 Women & Science Spring Lecture and Luncheon, Dr. Agata Smogorzewska, a physician-scientist at Rockefeller University, will discuss how new discoveries are fueling the development of innovative cancer therapies, including some that precisely target an individual’s tumor cells by exploiting the cells’ own defects in DNA repair. Dr. Smogorzewska and her colleagues study patients with rare inherited abnormalities in DNA repair to learn how defects in their genes permit the formation of tumors. Many cancers, including breast and ovarian tumors, share some of the same defects, suggesting that Dr. Smogorzewska’s discoveries may lead to better detection and treatment of cancer in the broader population.