Ramon Martinez

Pharmaceutical Sciences

Area of Doctoral Study: Pharmaceutical Sciences

Undergraduate Institute: University of California, Santa Cruz

Research Advisor: Paul Shapiro, Ph.D.

Description of Research

Our research group studies novel therapeutic agents that can be used to selectively regulate and inhibit signaling pathways of the mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinases in treatment of cancer and inflammation.

One of these kinases in particular, the extracellular signal-regulated kinases-1/2 (ERK1/2), are responsible for coordinating environmental stimuli and eliciting the growth and proliferation responses of many cell types. Constitutive activity of this pathway is closely associated with growth and tumorigenesis in cancer cells. To remedy this, many scientific efforts have been placed in the design of inhibitors that block the kinase activity of ERK. In my project, I am attempting to characterize the molecular mechanisms of a novel, rationally designed compound that has exhibited specificity for inhibiting ERK2 functions. This kinase inhibitor, designed to target ERK substrate-binding sites, has displayed the ability to constrain the proliferation of melanoma cells with constitutively active ERK.  Continued studies will look into the exact mechanism of interaction between this compound and ERK2, and how the net effect of altered ERK regulation manifests in the inhibition of melanoma cell growth.