Norman E. Sharpless
Area of Interest
Dr. Sharpless’ research has focused on the control of the cell cycle, particularly by the INK4a/ARF (or CDKN2a) tumor suppressor locus which encodes the p16INK4a and ARF cancer suppressors. With collaborators, Dr. Sharpless showed that expression of p16INK4a prevents cancer but is both a biomarker and effector of mammalian aging in diverse tissues including pancreatic b-cells, certain somatic stem cells and T-lymphocytes. This mechanism of aging has been supported by several unbiased, genome-wide association studies in large human populations. The Sharpless lab discovered ‘pharmacological quiescence’ as a means to ameliorate the toxicity of chemotherapy and other DNA damaging agents. The Sharpless lab has a longstanding interest in the role of tumor suppressor genes such as p16INK4a and LKB1/STK11 (an upstream regulator of p16INK4a) in preventing malignancy and suppressing metastasis in diverse cancers including melanoma and carcinoma of the lung and breast. Dr. Sharpless’ group has developed several faithful murine models of these cancers which are used in the UNC Mouse Phase I Unit to study novel approaches to treat these malignancies in humans. Dr. Sharpless also co-directs UNCseqTM, a large UNC human clinical trial using next generation sequencing of tumor DNA to define optimal chemotherapy in patients with advanced cancer in clinical real-time.
Awards and Honors
Dr. Sharpless has authored more than 100 research papers and is an inventor of 10 patents. His lab has received support from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research; the American Federation of Aging Research; the William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation; the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Ellison Medical Foundation and the Burroughs-Wellcome Foundation. He is on the scientific advisory board of several scientific research foundations, is an associate editor of Aging Cell, and is the Deputy Editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. He was the 2007 recipient of the Jefferson Pilot Award, the 2009 recipient of the Hettleman Prize for Scholarly Achievement, a 2010 recipient of a Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging, a 2012 “Triangle Business Journal Health Care Hero” and is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI), the nation’s oldest honor society for physician-scientists. He has been elected to serve on the ASCI council from 2011 to 2014.