PULLMAN, Wash. — A gene that helps cells survive but causes cancer is the subject of the annual Herbert L. Eastlick Lecture at Washington State University Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Cancer researcher Nancy Magnuson, the Herbert Eastlick Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biosciences, will deliver the lecture at 7:30 p.m. in Todd Hall, Room 276, on the Pullman campus.

“Most normal genes in our body code for proteins that are necessary for good health,” said Magnuson. “But the question arises ‘why are some normal genes occasionally found to be involved in cancer production?’ In the case of the gene pim 1 and its product protein Pim-1, the only thing known about them when they were discovered about 15 years ago was that the protein Pim-1 caused cancer. Nothing was known about its biological function. Now, years later, we know that the protein is involved with several aspects of normal cell growth, but one function that may be critical to cancer is its ability to promote cell survival.”

“This seemingly innocent function of helping cells to survive can contribute to cancer production and is a primary subject of my research,” she said. “It is this kind of research that is so essential to the development of new chemotherapeutic agents that will be selectively effective against cancer cells.”

Magnuson received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1965 and her doctorate in immunology at WSU in 1978. After a postdoctoral appointment, she joined the WSU faculty in 1980. She is a member of the board of directors of the Spokane chapter of the American Cancer Society, serves on the advisory board of the WSU Cancer Prevention and Research Center, and sits on the review panel for grant awards for prostate and breast cancer research from the U.S. Army.

The Eastlick Lecture is given annually by the Herbert L. Eastlick Distinguished Professor. The professorship was created in honor of WSU professor emeritus of zoology Herbert Eastlick, who served on the WSU faculty for 33 years.