Justina McEvoy

Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biology
Assistant Professor, BIO5 Institute
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics
Assistant Professor, Cancer Biology - GIDP

Justina McEvoy, PhD, is interested in the regulation of differentiation programs during normal development and tumorigenesis in pediatric cancers. Her lab is currently focused on two projects. The first project studies the role of the Rb tumor suppressor in regulation of differentiation pathways in a rare childhood cancer of the retina called retinoblastoma. Dr. McEvoy believes that Rb may play an important role in silencing the retinal progenitor program when cells exit the cell cycle and commit to specific neuronal lineages. Inactivation of the RB1 gene during retinogenesis may aberrantly activate the progenitor program in a subset of retinal neurons making them susceptible to become tumorigenic. The second project studies the relationship between the genetic and epigenetic contributions in a pediatric cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. Recent whole genome sequencing analysis of the rhabdomyosarcoma alveolar histological subtype reveal very few genetic alterations, with no recurrent mutations in any known cancer consensus genes besides a Pax3/7-FOXO1 translocation. Dr. McEvoy believes deregulation of epigenetic mechanisms are driving tumor progression in these tumors. Overall, Dr. McEvoy hopes to shed light on the underlying biological mechanisms of normal development and tumorigenesis and provide novel therapeutic approaches for these devastating pediatric cancers.