Trudy G. Oliver

Dr. Trudy G. Oliver is a Principal Investigator and Associate Professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She is also a Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) Endowed Chair in Cancer Research.

Dr. Oliver’s research program focuses on investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms which underlie lung cancer biology. Lung cancer can be largely stratified into two major subtypes; small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). While SCLC only accounts for 15% of annual diagnoses, it is a significantly more lethal form of the disease and has seen almost no advances in treatment options in the past 30 years, leading to the NIH designation as a recalcitrant cancer. Using a sophisticated integration of mouse genetics, molecular and cellular biology, and biochemistry, Dr. Oliver’s group addresses key questions in SCLC biology related to mechanisms of drug resistance, subtype specific treatment vulnerabilities, and subtype transdifferentiantion.

Specifically, in recent years her lab has turned their attention toward elucidating the role of myc family members in subtype specification and plasticity in SCLC. The Myc family members are proteins known as transcription factors, which are normally used to control the expression genes which help to coordinate cell growth and proliferation. In a wide variety of different human cancers, these Myc proteins are hijacked by cancer cells to enable them to robustly and rapidly grow and proliferate. Recently, her groundbreaking research revealed that specific subtypes of SCLC respond differently to various treatments based on their expression of different myc family members. These results have led researchers and clinicians alike to begin re-evaluating thinking of SCLC as a single homogenous disease, and also to question whether patients should be subject to modern next generation sequencing prior to engaging in treatment plans. However, like most diseases under the scrutiny of molecular research, much work needs to be done in the following years before taking these next leaps forward in personalized medicine.

Dr. Oliver received her PhD in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology in 2005 from Duke University, completing her thesis work focused on a childhood brain tumor called medulloblastoma in Dr. Rob Wechsler-Reya’s lab. She then went on to hold a brief Postdoctoral Associate position at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the laboratory of Dr. Terry Van Dyke before accepting a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At MIT she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Tyler Jacks and honed her skills in mouse genetics from 2006-2011. She then accepted a position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah and established her Laboratory at the HCI in 2011.

During her training Dr. Oliver was the recipient of numerous awards, including a Valedictorian scholarship from Oklahoma Baptist University, a National Science Foundation graduate student fellowship, and two postdoctoral fellowships from ASPET-Merck and the Ludwig Foundation at MIT. Since establishing her own laboratory, she has since received awards from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the V Foundation for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and the Lung Cancer Research Foundation. She also serves as an Associate Scientific Advisor for Science Translational Medicine.

In addition to her accolades in research, Dr. Oliver is known as an active and exceptional mentor, with many of her students winning prestigious awards and travel grants. Some of these include the Susan Cooper Jones Postdoc of the Year Award, the James W Prahl Memorial Graduate Student of the Year award, an NIH NCI F99/K00 Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award, the School of Medicine Undergraduate of the Year award, the John Weis Memorial Graduate Student Award, and selection as a recipient to the 68th Annual Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany.

Between her groundbreaking science and fierce dedication to mentoring the next generation of trainees, Dr. Oliver is a true role model for all scientists. It is of no doubt that her innovative and exciting research on SCLC biology will have significant scientific and medical impacts for years to come.


Significant Papers:

MYC Drives Temporal Evolution of Small Cell Lung Cancer Subtypes by Reprogramming Neuroendocrine Fate – Cancer Cell 2020

MYC-Driven Small-Cell Lung Cancer is Metabolically Distinct and Vulnerable to Arginine Depletion – Clinical Cancer Research 2019

The Lineage-Defining Transcription Factors SOX2 and NKX2-1 Determine Lung Cancer Cell Fate and Shape the Tumor Immune Microenvironment – Immunity 2018

MYC Drives Progression of Small Cell Lung Cancer to a Variant Neuroendocrine Subtype with Vulnerability to Aurora Kinase Inhibition – Cancer Cell 2017

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