Grant A. Challen, PhD

Grant A. Challen, PhD

Associate Professor

Department of Medicine - Oncology Division - Molecular Oncology Section

Dr. Challen's work in understanding the molecular regulation of hematopoietic stem cells is motivated by his desire to improve the lives of patients afflicted with hematopoietic disorders. His ultimate career goal is to see the implementation of meaningful discoveries in basic biology help drive novel clinical outcomes. He believes that deciphering the contribution of epigenetic factors in hematopoiesis could ultimately lead to novel therapeutic approaches for a wide range of patients. Aberrant epigenetic marks, such as DNA methylation and histone modification patterns, are widely reported in human hematopoietic malignancies, but the pathological consequences of these marks remain to be defined. Moreover, genetic mutations in a number of critical components of the epigenetic machinery have recently been discovered in diseases such as acute myeloid leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and T-cell leukemia / lymphoma. There is mounting evidence for the importance of epigenetic mechanisms in the regulation of stem cell function. This area of study represents one of the next major fields of stem cell biology. As a post-doctoral fellow at Baylor College of Medicine, Grant identified a crucial role for the DNA methytransferase enzyme Dnmt3a in hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal versus differentiation fate decisions. In his independent research laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis, Grant has extended these studies into mouse models of hematopoietic transformation and shown that loss of Dnmt3a in the bone marrow leads to the development of myelodysplastic syndromes after long latency. The observation that hypomethylating agents such as decitabine can induce a clinical response in a subset of patients highlights the importance of targeting epigenetic marks in cancer therapy. However, cancers are driven by both global and specific epigenomic dysregulation and the key is to restore the abnormal marks while retaining the normal distribution. We are now developing molecular tools for locus-specific epigenomic remodeling. As a member of the Siteman Cancer Center, Dr. Challen is dedicated to a career in academic cancer research.

When away from the lab, Grant enjoys spending time with his wife and children. He likes to stay active through sports, including rugby, cricket, and tennis, though you won't have to twist his arm to grab a beer and some pizza. He is a fan of Marvel's Avengers films and is one of the galaxy's biggest Star Wars fans.

"Do or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda


Education

1997-2000 B.Sc (Hons), Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, QLD, Australia

2002-2006 PhD, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia (Mentor: Professor Melissa Little)


Post-Graduate Training

2006-2012 Postdoctoral Fellow, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX (Mentor: Professor Margaret Goodell)


Academic Positions

2012-present Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO


Awards

2005 - Queensland Premier's Award for Health and Medical Research

2006 - National Health and Medical Research Council CJ Martin Training Fellowship

2008 - Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center Symposium "Best Oral Presentation"

2009 - Center For Cell and Gene Therapy Symposium "Best Oral Presentation"

2010 - NIH K99/R00 Career Development Award

2010 - American Society of Hematology ASH Scholar Award

2010 - Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center Symposium "Best Oral Presentation"

2010 - American Society of Hematology Joanne Levy Memorial Medal

2011 - Forbeck Scholar Award (William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation)

2012 - Alex's Lemonade Stand "A" Award

2012 - Children's Discovery Institute Interdisciplinary Research Award

2013 - Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation Scholar

2014 - American Society of Hematology Junior Faculty Scholar

2015 - Sidney Kimmel Foundation Scholar Award

2015 - V Foundation V Scholar Award

2018 - Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar Award

Professional Societies & Organizations

2005-present International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR)

2009-present American Society of Hematology (ASH)

2012-present Society for Hematology and Stem Cells (ISEH)