Albert J. Fornace, MD, is the Molecular Cancer Research Chair at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center; Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology.
Most of us are all too familiar with the effects that psychological stress can have on our bodies. But Georgetown University Medical Center’s Albert J. Fornace, MD, professor of biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology and oncology, is committed to researching how environmental stresses can cause normal cells to become cancerous—and is developing ways to stop this from occurring. Fornace’s innovative work in the area of cellular response to radiation and other environmental toxins has earned him the Molecular Cancer Research Chair at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Fornace, the first recipient of the Chair, joined Georgetown last fall from the Harvard School of Public Health, where he was the director of the John B. Little Center for the Radiation Sciences and Environmental Health. As the Molecular Cancer Research Chair, he will continue investigating exactly what happens to cells when they are stressed or injured--by anything from radiation to toxic substances--work that has thus far revealed processes underlying development of cancer and other diseases. Fornace’s research has shown that diseases develop when stress-related signals inside the cell alter the expression of multiple genes involved in cell-cycle control, programmed cell death, and DNA damage processing.
In addition to his research on the molecular pathways of cancer, Fornace is also studying cellular stress responses on a broader level. By understanding genome-wide response to stresses like radiation or chemical toxins, Fornace will be able to develop biomarkers to detect exposure in humans. He is specifically looking for markers in both gene expression and metabolites which could be detected in easily obtainable samples like urine, saliva, sweat, and blood. With this kind of test available, emergency response personnel would be able to identify and triage patients who were significantly exposed.