Pathology Graduate Training Program
Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) -

Name: Kelly Watson

Undergraduate Degree: B.S.
Undergraduate Degree Year: 2001
Undergraduate Institution: Carnegie Mellon University
Undergraduate Major: Biological Science

Academic Status: 5th Year

Graduate Program: Experimental Pathology

Thesis Advisor: Dorothea Becker, Ph.D.

Thesis Title/Research Topic: Functional analysis of the role of N-cadherin, MCAM, and 3 integrin in human melanoma

Current Research Description: The incidence of cutaneous melanoma has continued to increase over the last several decades. Although the cure rate is relatively high when identified and resected in the early stages, metastatic melanoma is highly refractory to current therapeutic approaches. Consequently, improved knowledge regarding the disease mechanism is essential.

It has been hypothesized that molecules involved in cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion play a crucial role in tumorigenesis, not only by regulating physical tumor cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, but also through the transduction of regulatory signals between cells and from extracellular matrix (ECM) to tumor cells. Three cell adhesion molecules have been clearly identified as progression factors in melanoma, and may serve as therapeutic targets: N-cadherin, melanoma cell adhesion molecule (MCAM), and the beta 3 integrin subunit. It is our hypothesis that targeted inhibition of one, or a combination of all three genes may represent a viable strategy for inhibiting melanoma growth, invasion, and metastasis formation. We are currently investigating the effects of blocking expression of N-cadherin, MCAM, and/or beta 3 integrin on the growth, migration, and invasion of human metastatic melanoma cells, using RNA interference and antisense targeting. Our studies are expected to help elucidate whether these cell adhesion molecules represent effective therapeutic targets for melanoma.

Undergraduate Honors: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Funding, 1999 and 2000

Graduate Honors: Keystone Symposia, February 2003: Served as Conference Assistant - Award of full payment of conference registration fees, abstract fee, and lodging.

Graduate Honors:


  1. Watson-Hurst, K and Becker, D. (2006) The role of N-cadherin, MCAM, and ?3 integrin in melanoma progression, proliferation, migration, and invasion. Cancer Biology & Therapy. In press.
  2. Moschos S, Smith A, Mandic M, Athanassiou H, Watson-Hurst, K, Jukic D, Edington H, Kirkwood J, Becker D. (2006) SAGE and antibody array analysis of melanoma-infiltrated lymph nodes: identification of Ubc9 as an important molecule in advanced-stage melanomas. Manuscript in Submission
  3. Abstract/Poster Presentation: American Association for Cancer Research Annual Conference, April 2006: The Role of the Cell Adhesion Molecules N-cadherin, MCAM, and 3 Integrin in Melanoma Adhesion, Invasion, and Metastasis.
  4. Abstract/Poster Presentation: Science2004 No Boundaries, University of Pittsburgh, October 2004.
  5. Abstract/Poster Presentation: UPCI Scientific Retreat, University of Pittsburgh, June 2004.
  6. Abstract/Poster Presentation: Keystone Symposia: Optical Imaging: Applications to Biology and Medicine, February 2003. Real-time Fluorescence Imaging Analysis of Gene Expression in Human Melanoma.