Researcher Spotlight: Lena Lupey-Green, PhD

Penn State College of Medicine

Lymphomas that are associated with infection of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which induces a chronic, latent infection in B-cells, present a unique therapeutic opportunity wherein the virus can be specifically targeted to treat the lymphoma, with potentially less significant toxicity than standard chemotherapeutic approaches that target the host. Dr. Lupey-Green’s LRF grant project focuses on understanding a new function for a viral molecule that may contribute to EBV-associated lymphomas—the long non-coding RNA molecule BHLF1 (which carries signals from DNA but, unlike standard RNA, does not translate into protein). “Gaining insight into how BHLF1 regulates latency [the ability of a virus to be dormant within a cell] and the viral life cycle may reveal important therapeutic targets—both viral and human—to specifically treat these aggressive EBV-associated lymphomas,” she notes.

Dr. Lupey-Green received her PhD in biomedical sciences from Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, with an emphasis on cancer biology and genetics. Initially interested in viral infections as a graduate student, laboratory research on EBV led her to learn more about its associated cancers, and from there cancer genetics. “I found a passion for cancer research that I never anticipated, and one that I have carried with me into my postdoctoral work,” she says. Now a  postdoctoral scholar at Penn State College of Medicine, “I bring my expertise in viral oncology and molecular biology to a lab that has historically worked to understand the basic mechanisms dictating viral latency and gene expression. With this work, I am integrating my knowledge of cancer and Epstein-Barr virus biology to identify the potential contributions of this complex BHLF1 locus to lymphomagenesis in hopes that it may one day lead to the development of EBV-specific treatment strategies.”

Dr. Lupey-Green adds that LRF funding “will allow me to carry out basic molecular biology research for a virus that receives very little attention despite its oncogenic potential. EBV-associated cancers are particularly aggressive, and so any progress we can make in understanding virus biology is progress towards treating EBVassociated disease.” She concludes, “Receiving this award is an acknowledgment of the importance of the contributions of basic science research to biomedical science and gives me both the ability and confidence to continue to work in virology, while asking questions and thinking in the context of cancer research.”