Ralf Kittler, PhD

  • Recruited to: The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  • Recruited from: University of Chicago
  • Award: First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Member

Dr. Ralf Kittler received his PhD degree from the Dresden University of Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (Germany) before completing a postdoctoral fellowship in genomics and cancer biology at the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology of the University of Chicago. He joined The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center faculty early in 2010 as an Assistant Professor in the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development.

His scientific interests and expertise focus on defining regulatory pathways contributing to the development and maintenance of tumors, particularly hormonally-responsive tumors such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. As a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute, Dr. Kittler worked in the laboratory of Dr. Frank Buchholz. In the Buchholz laboratory Dr. Kittler developed a specific and highly efficient method (using RNA interference) to inactivate genes in cultured human cells. He used this technique to identify new genes and pathways that are essential for progression through the cell division cycle. This work was recognized by the Max Plank Society with the Otto Hahn Medal. He then moved to the laboratory of Dr. Kevin White at the University of Chicago. As a postdoctoral fellow his goal was to identify genes that were activated in response to hormonal signaling in breast cancer cells. To this end, he generated a genome-wide map of the binding sites for 24 nuclear hormone receptors; these hormones and their receptors act by altering the expression of critical genes. He found that vitamin A derivatives inhibited the stimulatory effects of estrogen on breast cancer cell growth.

Now that he has moved to The University of Texas Southwestern, Dr. Kittler's goal is to discover new targets that can be used for the detection, staging and treatment of prostate cancer. He is taking advantage of a recent discovery that fusion of genes that control gene expression (by encoding transcription factors) are common in prostate cancer, and he will identify the transcriptional targets of these factors and modulators of their activity. In addition to this project, he will collaborate with Drs. John Minna and David Mangelsdorf to characterize the nuclear hormone transcription profile in lung cancer, with a goal of developing new strategies to detect and treat this common and deadly disease.

Dr. Kittler is the first faculty member to be appointed as a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (2010).