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Benjamin Berman, PhD

Benjamin Berman, PhD

Grant Status

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Grant Type
Project Grant

Project Title
Tracking DNA methylation loss to understand the origins and evolution of a tumor

Tumor Types

Research Topics
Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics

About the Investigator:

The goal of Dr. Berman’s research is to understand the genomic patterns of DNA methylation and other epigenomic markers that underlie gene regulation in human development
and disease. Dr. Berman is a native of Los Angeles who received his BA and PhD at the University of California at Berkeley, then joined the faculty at the University of Southern California and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, first as Director of Bioinformatics for the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center Sequencing Core, and subsequently as an independent investigator funded by the US National Cancer Institute. In 2019, he transplanted his lab to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where they could take advantage of large existing research programs in DNA methylation and liquid biopsy. Dr. Berman is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research at the Faculty of Medicine of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC).

About the Research:

Epigenetic changes do not alter DNA sequence but do alter chemical DNA modifications that affect basic cellular processes. Loss of the DNA modification 5-methylcytosine is one of the most widely recognized epigenetic changes in cancer cells, and Dr. Berman’s lab recently showed how this process affects cells during normal aging as well. Recent evidence suggests that these epigenetic changes in cancer can not only affect gene expression but also alert immune cells that normally respond to tumors.

Dr. Berman’s laboratory has developed analytical tools to analyze methylation patterns from large scale sequencing data from individual patients. They will develop computational tools to use these DNA methylation loss patterns to infer a cancer cell’s origin and evolutionary history, taking advantage of new technologies that analyze single cells to identify consequences of methylation loss for expression of genes that promote and prevent cancer. This may lead to identification of new cancer biomarkers and an understanding of which drugs can target cancers that exhibit characteristic methylation patterns. Dr. Berman’s lab will devise new tests for detection of these biomarkers in circulating cell-free DNA (sometimes referred to as a “liquid biopsy”).

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