Searching for Druggable Targets: Dr. Everardo Macias

By Liz Proper

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In his inaugural independent role, Everado Macias, PhD, has demonstrated his invaluable contributions to Duke Pathology by spearheading compelling research initiatives, solidifying his position as a leader in the field.

The Macias Lab’s primary objective is to find druggable targets to reduce the number of deaths from prostate cancer by acquiring fundamental mechanistic insights into molecular targets that hold clinical significance. His number-one targets are understudied druggable proteins such as NUAK2 and RIOK2, which have successfully slowed down the spread of the cancer cells. To achieve this, Macias’ group operates at the intersection of human cancer genetics, gene involvement in cellular function, and comprehensive mouse models both in vitro and in vivo.  Through functional genomic screens, he’s identified lesser-know protein kinases that are critical to prostate cancer tumor growth.

Loren Weidenhammer
Loren Weidenhammer, first-year Pathology PhD Program rotation student

Recently, Macias began exploring how obesity impacts prostate cancer proliferation and mortality. His lab conducted an shRNA in vivo screen, a type of genetic search tool. They used this method in obese mice to pinpoint a specific gene, RIOK2, which plays a critical role in the progression of prostate cancer in the context of obesity. This study opens avenues for further research and potential interventions to mitigate the impact of obesity on prostate cancer, offering hope for improved treatments and outcomes in the future.

Surrounded by a multitude of impactful scientific breakthroughs, Macias identifies his most significant achievement since joining the department as mentoring his first graduate student, Amelia Schirmer, and watching her graduate. Additionally, Macias has mentored two undergraduate Duke University students who graduated with first-author publications. The students, Peter Nam and Megan Zhao, are now applying to medical school. “It’s important to be involved as much as I can with undergrads and grad students, and helping underrepresented students,” Macias explained.

Macias has big goals for his continued research at Duke, including securing NIH R01 funding and actively participating in phase 1 clinical trials to advance cutting-edge discoveries in cancer research.

Prominent Grants and Honors:

  • Department of Defense (DoD) grant for over $1 million, titled “Targeting NUAK2 in Neuroendocrine Prostate Cancer”
  • DoD Prostate Cancer Research Program Idea Development Award for research titled “Targeting NUAK2 to mitigate obesity-enhanced prostate cancer growth and metastasis.”

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