Member Biography

Steven Johnson, Ph.D.

635 Barnhill Drive
Room 0013D
Indianapolis, IN 46202

Phone: (317) 274-2458

Research Program Membership

Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

I am already an Associate Member of the EDT group; however, as my research is branching into breast cancer, I thought it might also be a good idea to join up with the Breast Cancer group. I don't think there are any problems with being a member of two different research groups in the IUSCC. My lab is developing inhibitors of the 60 kilodalton heat shock protein (HSP60) chaperonin system. We believe HSP60 is a promising chemotherapeutic target because in breast and other cancers (e.g. cervical, ovarian, colon, and prostate), the abnormally propagating cells have hijacked HSP60 regulation to help circumvent apoptosis. While located only in the mitochondria of healthy cells, HSP60¿s role in oncogenesis is not clear and may predominantly result from cancer cells over-expressing and accumulating unprocessed (na¿ve) HSP60 in the cytosol (which still bears its mitochondrial import sequence). We hypothesize that it should be possible to develop chemotherapeutics that selectively target this aberrant HSP60 in cancer cells. That small molecule HSP60 inhibitors could prove effective anti-cancer agents is supported by studies demonstrating that genetic knockdown of HSP60 concentrations selectively inhibits the growth of breast and colon cancer cells over normal cells. Our recent studies recapitulated those results, but with small molecule HSP60 inhibitors instead of genetic knock-down. Our current research is geared towards optimizing these HSP60 inhibitors against the protein and for anti-cancer efficacy in cells. Our future plans are to evaluate these HSP60-targeting chemotherapeutic candidates in orthotopic mouse models of cancer. Initially we are focusing on breast cancer; however, we have plans to pursue this strategy for colon and lung cancer.

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Post-doctoral Fellowship - University of Washington, WA 2010-2012

Post-doctoral Fellowship - Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 2008-2010

Pharm.D. - The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 2006-2008

Ph.D. - The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 2001-2006