8 December 2021 – Healthy human cells have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Anything else is often fatal. That is, except in cancer cells. Aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes, was first observed at the end of the 19th century. “Aneuploidy has been the elephant in the room of cancer research,” says new EMBO Young Investigator Uri Ben-David. “We know it’s there; we know it’s important for driving cancer, but we still don’t understand how it works.” Ben-David, who established his group at Tel Aviv University in 2019, says now the time is ripe to tackle this age-old conundrum.
Using a variety of computational and experimental approaches Ben-David wants to understand why different cancer types have specific chromosomal signatures, and which genes drive aneuploidy formation. Although he is motivated by a desire to understand this phenomenon, he is also driven by the potential relevance to human health: “There is an acute need for new cancer drugs and therapeutic approaches, so our research can quickly translate into something more applicable.” He is looking forward to forging new relationships with scientists from across Europe and hopes to attract excellent students and postdoctoral researchers to Israel. “Science is all about people and community,” he says.