A Q&A With Genetics Postdoc Lilian Kabeche

Read the full stories, published by The Graduate Forum and the Geisel School of Medicine.

Lilian Kabeche in a laboratory Lilian Kabeche completed her PhD in biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine in 2013. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher in genetics at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center. (Photo courtesy of The Graduate Forum)

Lilian Kabeche, a postdoctoral researcher in genetics at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center and a recent Geisel School of Medicine PhD graduate, received the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Beckman Coulter Distinguished Graduate Student Achievement Prize this fall. Kabeche completed her PhD in biochemistry at Geisel in 2013, studying mechanisms of mitosis and the differences between cancer cells and normal diploid cells in the lab of Duane Compton, interim dean at Geisel and a professor of biochemistry. She is continuing her research on cancer cells as a postdoc with Scott Gerber, an associate professor of genetics at Geisel.

Kabeche recently spoke with The Graduate Forum about her work:

Congratulations on your award. Can you give a synopsis of your work?

The award was for my work in Duane Compton’s lab. It was a combination of several projects. My work has been focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of segregation fidelity and the consequences of this loss in relation to cancer therapeutics. Specifically, my work in Duane Compton’s lab focused on understanding the regulation of kinetochore-microtubule (k-MT) attachments. Defects in these attachments can lead to the missegregation of whole chromosomes, causing aneuploidy. Many cancer cells lose segregation fidelity and become chromosomally unstable (CIN). Importantly, CIN is correlated with drug resistance, increased tumor metastasis and overall unfavorable patient prognosis. So understanding how k-MT attachments are regulated is very important to understanding how CIN arrises and in the future create targeted therapeutics to CIN cancer cells.

What are the implications of the discovery of these new mechanisms? What does this mean for future scientists?

My work really changed the way we think about k-MT attachments in mitosis. It also helped us understand the role of cyclin A, a major cell cycle regulator, in mitosis. Something completely unknown before. This better understanding of how k-MT attachments are regulated and how cancer cells lose this regulation, leading to increased segregation loss, is going to be extremely important in creating more effective chemotherapies that target these CIN cancer cells.