LMU Professor’s Research on Pediatric Cancer Looks to Find Treatments by Understanding Its Origins

Dr. Adam Gromley in LMU's research laboratory in the Hamilton Math and Science Building

Adam Gromley, PhD, director of research and associate professor of molecular/cellular biology at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM) was awarded a $16,000 grant for pediatric cancer research from The Butterfly Fund of East Tennessee Foundation on June 4, 2020. His research aims to help understand the origins of rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) and find better ways to treat it.


RMS is the most common soft tissue cancer in children, with approximately two-thirds of cases diagnosed in children under the age of 10. RMS is caused by the uncontrolled cell division of skeletal muscle cells called myoblasts; however, the molecular factors that contribute to the development of this disease are not completely understood.


His research aims to identify these molecular factors, specifically focusing on a part of the cell called the centrosome. Gromley has used the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to disrupt specific proteins in the centrosome of cultured RMS cells to determine their roles in the development of the disease.


“Using this approach, we have discovered that elimination of one particular protein, called Centriolin, causes rhabdomyosarcoma cells to stop dividing and eventually die,” Gromley said. “We are currently testing other proteins of the centrosome to determine if their disruption has similar consequences. We hope that these results will contribute to our knowledge of the origins of rhabdomyosarcoma and lead to a clearer understanding of how this disease may be more effectively treated in the future.”


Gromley’s interest in studying pediatric cancer on the cellular level began at the University of Massachusetts Medical School while researching cell biology. Gromley took a particular interest in a component of the cell called the centrosome.


World Cancer Day poster with Dr. Adam Gromley, Research at LMU“It was during my postdoctoral studies at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that I saw firsthand how devastating pediatric cancers are and I decided that I wanted to do whatever I can to contribute to the understanding of how these cancers arise,” Gromley said.


Gromley earned his PhD in biomedical sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2004. From 2006 to 2010 Gromley completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the Department of Genetics and Tumor Cell Biology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.


This is the fourth grant awarded to Gromley by The Butterfly Fund of East Tennessee Foundation. Over the last four years, Gromley has been awarded $65,000 by the foundation to continue his research on RMS pediatric cancer.


The Butterfly Fund of East Tennessee Foundation is a charity based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was established by the families of two young girls who were diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma. This fund supports research, treatment and services dedicated to the defeat of childhood cancers.


Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine is located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, with an additional location at LMU-Knoxville. LMU-DCOM is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of osteopathic physicians to provide health care in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond. For more information about LMU-DCOM, call 1.800.325.0900, ext. 7082, email dcom@LMUnet.edu, or visit us online at http://med.LMUnet.edu.

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