Cancer researcher Stack named science director for Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute

by William G. Gilroy

M. Sharon Stack

M. Sharon Stack, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences and Mulligan Professor of Cancer Research at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, has been named Ann F. Dunne and Elizabeth Riley Science Director of the Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute and professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame. The Harper Cancer Research Institute is a novel collaboration between the University of Notre Dame and the Indiana University School of Medicine.

In her new role, Stack will work collaboratively with the clinical director of the Harper Cancer Research Institute to develop and foster a collaborative and innovative cancer research program. She will have an opportunity to identify emerging areas of high-priority basic science research that will be at the forefront of future cancer research and incorporate these areas in the planning, recruitment and research activities of the Harper Cancer Research Institute.

The Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute will include Notre Dame and Indiana School of Medicine faculty housed in the new Harper Hall, and faculty with cancer research programs housed in other research buildings on the Notre Dame campus and in Raclin Carmichael Hall on the campus of the IU School of Medicine, South Bend.

Part of the funding for Harper Hall came from the family foundation of Charles M. “Mike” Harper, a former South Bend resident and the retired chair and chief executive officer of ConAgra Foods. Harper made a $10 million contribution to the University of Notre Dame to support its cancer research programs and the gift was matched with a $10 million appropriation from the state of Indiana to Indiana University for the project. When completed in early spring 2011, Harper Hall will provide 55,000 square feet of office and research laboratory space.

Stack’s appointment is the result of an extensive national search.

“We are very pleased to welcome Sharon Stack to Notre Dame,” Robert Bernhard, Notre Dame’s vice president for research and chair of the search committee, said. “She is an outstanding scholar and nationally known cancer researcher. She is the right person to help Notre Dame and Indiana University launch the Harper Institute.”

“Indiana University School of Medicine South Bend welcomes Professor Stack and we look forward to working with her in the Harper Cancer Research Institute partnership,” Rudy Navari, clinical director, Harper Cancer Institute and associate dean, Indiana University School of Medicine South Bend, added.

“We are delighted to have such a well-known cancer leader coming to Notre Dame,” said Gregory P. Crawford, William K. Warren Foundation Dean of the College of Science. “We are all very enthusiastic about Professor Stack’s vision for our future collaborative cancer efforts on campus, crossing college boundaries and institutions, and working with our local medical oncology community.”

Prior to joining the Missouri faculty in 2007, Stack was a professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She received her doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of Louisville and completed postdoctoral training in biochemical pathology at Duke University Medical Center. She also served for several years as a research assistant professor at the Duke Medical Center.

Stack’s research focus is in the area of molecular mechanisms of metastasis. Understanding the molecular mechanisms by which tumor cells orchestrate multiple microenvironmental cues to regulate the expression and activity of metastasis-associated proteinases is the major focus of her laboratory.

Current research in her lab utilizes a multi-disciplinary framework to investigate the contribution of adhesion-based signaling, mechanical cues, altered microRNA profiles, and aberrant proteinase regulation in two model systems: epithelial ovarian carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity. Her research utilizes an integrative approach involving examination of two-dimensional (2-D) and three-dimensional (3-D) tissue culture systems and organotypic cultures complemented by murine tumor models and analyses of human tumors.

Stack has served as a full member of the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute Tumor Progression and Metastasis (TPM) study section and currently performs ad hoc review service for both TPM and Tumor Microenvironment as well as intramural review for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). She also has served on review panels organized by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command for all three of their cancer programs: breast, prostate and ovarian, since 1994.

She was formerly director of the Tumor Invasion and Metastasis program at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University and is on the external advisory board of the Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University. She currently holds three RO1 grants from the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health.

Stack also is on the editorial boards of Cancer Research and Biochemical Journal and is a retired member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry editorial board.