Petersen Investigator: Michael German, MD

Michael German, MD has been named a Petersen Investigator for his work to explore the use of an FDA approved inhibitor of Mek1/2 in preclinical models of neuroendocrine tumors. Dr. German, from the University of California at San Francisco, has been awarded a two-year, $300,000 grant for his project entitled “Treating Neuroendocrine Tumors Via Synthetic Lethality.”

Synthetic lethality is a concept in genetics between two genes where mutation of either alone is compatible with life but mutation of both leads to cell death. Thus, targeting a synthetic lethal partner to a cancer-relevant mutation kills cancer cells and spares normal cells. In earlier work, Dr. German and Dr. Chester Chamberlain, a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. German’s laboratory, discovered that Mek1/2 is a synthetic lethal gene partner for two common characteristics of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs). Thus, PNETs may be sensitive to MEK1/2 inhibition. A drug that inhibits Mek1/2 has already been FDA-approved for the treatment of melanoma.

The results of this project will provide insight into the unique mechanisms that drive neuroendocrine cancer growth. If there are positive results from the preclinical studies, use of an FDA approved drug may provide rapid translation to patients with neuroendocrine cancers including pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.

Dr. German is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at UCSF, Associate Director and Clinical Director of the UCSF Diabetes Center. His group studies the formation and function of the beta-cells in the pancreas, how these processes break down in diabetes, hypoglycemia and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, and the translation of this knowledge into novel therapeutic strategies for these disorders. Dr. German received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and completed a fellowship in endocrinology at UCSF.

Funding for Petersen Investigators is made possible through the generous support of the Margie and Robert E. Petersen Foundation.