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2024 News and Recognitions

New NIH Funding for Dr. Keli Xu to study pancreatic cancer

Dr. Keli Xu, has always been curious about causes of diseases and was particularly interested in the parallel between normal tissue development and cancer.

At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Xu lab focuses on the roles of Notch signaling in tumor development of the mammary gland and pancreas. The team defined tumor suppressive and oncogenic roles for the Notch modulators Lunatic Fringe (Lfng) and Manic Fringe (Mfng) in two aggressive molecular subtypes of breast cancer, basal-like and claudin-low, respectively.

"We also identified a tumor suppressive function of Notch3 specifically in the postpartum mammary gland, with significant relevance to luminal subtype of breast cancer. With respect to pancreatic cancer, my lab showed that deletion of a Notch ligand Jagged1 promotes a phenotypic switch from pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma to cystic lesions, added Keli Xu, associate professor in the Cell and Molecular Biology Department.

Last month, Dr. Xu was awarded an R01 grant with the title "Dissecting roles of Lunatic Fringe-dependent Notch signaling in pancreatic cancer" from National Cancer Institute (NCI). Funding through NCI is highly competitive and only the best science is successful in receiving funding.

"Our compelling data highlights Lfng as a marker for tumor-forming cells with a driving function in all three cell types of origin for pancreatic cancer. This project is highly significant due to its potential to provide new insights into the role of Lfng in pancreatic cancer initiation from distinct cells of origin and possibly define a therapeutic target for this highly aggressive lethal malignancy," said Xu.

During postdoctoral training, Xu gained extensive experience and expertise in Notch, a signaling pathway that is essential for normal development and is deregulated in many types of cancer. What he learned helped him establish goals and equipped him with research tools to start a lab at UMMC.

"I believe creativity and persistence make a successful scientist and open-mindedness is critical in conducting rigorous research. By attracting graduate students and postdocs, I hope to assemble a team with the training, expertise, and motivation to successfully carry out the NCI-funded project," said Xu. More information on the grant objectives can be found at

Dr. Larry S. McDaniel selected to be MicroBio-LEAP Scholar

The American Society of Microbiology (ASM) announced the inaugural cohort of scholars for the newly-established Microbiology Leaders Evolving and Accountable to Progress (MicroBio-LEAP) Project. Dr. McDaniel was one of 24 selected. The NSF funded project will train leaders to embody inclusive diversity with equity, access and accountability (IDEAA) to promote cultural change in the microbial sciences. The goal is to make the field more welcoming of individuals belonging to historically excluded groups (HEGs).