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Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan, Vilma

Vilma Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan

CMIB Program

B.A., 1978, Vassar College
Ph.D., 1983, University of Istanbul Medical School
Postdoctoral, 1984-1988, University of Michigan

2209 Biomedical Physical Sciences
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
 Phone: (517) 884-5351

Overview of Research Program:

Research in my laboratory focuses on elucidating the molecular basis of genetic diseases as well as cancer genetics, mostly in companion animals, and occasionally extending to zoo animals, which share genetic pressures on their populations similar to those experienced by the companion animal populations, always utilizing a comparative perspective with human medicine. Companion animals, specifically cats and dogs, present spontaneously with many diseases that are of interest to study both to improve their health and well-being as well as to gain insight into key biological and pathological processes that impact humans. The presence of few or no phenocopies in a given breed, presence of large sibships and extended pedigrees and current molecular tools facilitate these studies. Our studies in comparative oncology include research on mast-cell tumors, ovarian and mammary carcinomas, osteosarcomas, lymphomas, and histiocytic sarcomas.

Focus on Special Projects:

Our initial genome wide linkage studies revealed a novel locus for copper handling in mammals, in Bedlington terriers, and we continue to study copper and zinc related genetic loci as well as other genetic disorders using multi-omics approaches. Our work in mast cell tumors has led to the identification of driver mutations in KIT, which have been important for both diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of this disorder in dogs, and is the basis for the first targeted treatment in veterinary oncology, an inhibitor of this receptor tyrosine kinase. Our studies of key predisposing and driver mutations in histiocytic sarcoma in Bernese mountain dogs have revealed key mutations in the MAPK pathway, and we are actively pursuing clinical trials of novel agents as well as early detection via liquid biopsy in this population.  Modulation of viral oncogenesis is the focus of our studies of feline leukemia virus.   We continue to facilitate the development of novel treatment approaches in various disease states in animals in collaboration with our colleagues, including the development of novel small molecules with Dr. Jetze Tepe, cancer vaccines with Dr. Xuefei Huang and targeting microRNAs with Dr. Anna Moore at MSU.

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