MUSC recruits cancer researcher for dual appointment

February 16, 2018
Denis C. Guttridge, Ph.D.
Denis C. Guttridge, Ph.D., was recruited from Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center where he served as a professor of cancer biology and genetics. Photo courtesy of Ohio State University Medical Center

Denis C. Guttridge, Ph.D., will be joining the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) as director of the Charles P. Darby Children’s Research Institute (DCRI) and associate director of translational sciences for the Hollings Cancer Center effective May 1.

Guttridge most recently served as professor of cancer biology and genetics at the renowned Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he has worked for the past 16 years. There he served as the associate director for basic research and was responsible for the coordination of basic science across the center’s research programs. His job involved fostering and nurturing collaborations at Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, involving more than 300 cancer researchers and their teams from 12 of the university’s colleges.

Andrew M. Atz, M.D., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, said he’s thrilled Guttridge has accepted the offer to be director of the institute, taking an appointment as the Charles P. Darby endowed chair for children’s research. “At MUSC Children’s Health, we are imagining what’s possible for each and every child by providing the pediatric expertise every child deserves and needs. History has shown that the best way to optimize patient care is to take what we learn in research labs and apply it in a way that enhances patient care.”

The Darby Children’s Research Institute, which opened in February 2005, is the largest and most comprehensive pediatric research facility in the Carolinas and one of only about 20 in the country. The seven-story, 121,000 square-foot building houses 150 state-of-the-art laboratories with 11 research programs dedicated to discovering the cures for a wide spectrum of conditions affecting kids, including cancer, genetic disorders and diabetes.

Hollings Cancer Center Director Gustavo W. Leone, Ph.D., said MUSC is pleased to have recruited a leader of such caliber and vision. “Denis is a team builder with a progressive and wonderful personality. He’s a perfect match for this dual leadership role. I look forward to the new bridges and strong relationships Denis will forge between Pediatrics and Hollings as we move into the future,” he said about Guttridge, who also will serve as a professor in MUSC’s Department of Pediatrics.

“There is much more we can do together than we can do alone.”

Leone said Guttridge’s role with the institute blends well with his dual appointment as associate director of translational sciences for the Hollings Cancer Center, South Carolina’s only National Cancer Institute-designated center with more than 120 cancer scientists. “In that role, one of his main missions will be to bring together basic and translational sciences with pharma partnerships to work with Hollings & DCRI on mechanisms of therapeutics and cancer therapeutic resistance that can develop during treatment, as well as preclinical models and the advancement of clinical trials at Hollings.”

Guttridge brings with him a wealth of research experience in both early muscle development and cancer. At OSU, he was the principal investigator for multiple National Institutes of Health research project grants and an NIH research training grant. A special area of his research focus is the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) family of transcription factors and their role in regulating skeletal muscle differentiation. This research made connections that led to insights in a number of disease conditions where NF-kB activity is chronically elevated.

Guttridge is a scientific leader in the molecular mechanisms of muscle-wasting conditions, including the cancer syndrome called cachexia that is commonly diagnosed in cancer patients and contributes to poor prognosis and a reduced quality of life. Other research interests include pancreatic cancer that has the highest incidence of cachexia, and childhood illnesses related to skeletal muscle defects including Duchenne muscular dystrophy and a childhood cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma.

Guttridge holds a doctoral degree in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine, and performed his postdoctoral fellowship at the Lineberger Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In addition to his role in the cancer center at Ohio State University as associate director of basic science, he directed the Center for Muscle Health and Neuromuscular Disorders and led working groups in cancer cachexia and pancreas disease.

Atz said Guttridge’s extraordinary academic abilities and long history of independent funding was a major draw as well as his interpersonal skills. “What I find especially compelling is Denis’ ability to be an exceptional team leader. He has the qualities necessary to build, integrate and mentor junior and established scientists across multiple disciplines,” he said.

“I very much am looking forward to partnering with Dr. Guttridge to achieve the growth of a multidisciplinary and collaborative group of innovative scientists with the objective to improve the health of children through cutting-edge discovery.”