American University of Beirut

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​​Dr. Sabreen Fostok awarded for her outstanding publication: "Gap Junctions and Wnt Signaling in the Mammary Gland: a Cross-Talk?"​

Congratulations to our AUB faculty Dr. Sabreen Fostok on having been selected as the recipient of the “Outstanding Publication” Award for 2018 by the editorial board of the "Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia", published by Springer Nature and the leading journal in the field of mammary gland biology. Her accomplishment has been announced and recognized at the prestigious 2019 Gordon Conference on Mammary Gland Biology in USA.

Dr. Sabreen Fostok, lecturer at the Department of Biology and an author of 8 publications, holds a Maitrise-es Sciences degree in Biology from the Lebanese University, MS in Biology and PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from AUB. She joined the Department of Biology as a graduate student in 2004 and as an instructor in 2007, before she received a PhD fellowship in 2013.

Her former PhD thesis advisor, Dr. Rabih Talhouk, said of her: "Over the years of Sabreen’s residency in the department as an instructor and researcher that culminated in her PhD degree in Fall of 2018-2019, I have witnessed her acquire excellent lab skills and thought processes. This latter has translated itself well into her award winning. Sabreen’s work ethics, diligence and meticulous approach, be it in setting up and running experiments in the lab, or in her critical reading of the literature set high standards for other trainees in my group that I am sure will be sustained for years to come. Additionally, her willingness to accept critical and constructive comments from her co-authors to improve on the manuscript and her persistence in seeking to excel in her writing has earned her due recognition by the Journal. It was a pleasure seeing her mature into the scientist she came to be and I wish her the best in the coming years as she considers future career directions."

Her former PhD thesis committee member, Dr. Mirvat El-Sibai (Associate Professor/Graduate Program Coordinator at LAU), said of her: "I had the pleasure and the honor to be part of Sabreen’s journey during her PhD training in Professor Talhouk’s laboratory. Sabreen is the epitome of the diligent scientist with the highest degree of commitment and work ethics and respect for the work and for her peers. Her award is a testimony to her writing skills and to her deep unrelentless thirst for knowledge. During my work with her, I ended up learning a lot from her. I am indeed very proud of this undeniable achievement and honor she obtained and she is, in no uncertain terms, one of the most deserving students for such an award. Working with Sabreen was also a very delightful sense of occasion for me, having been Professor Talhouk’s student myself. This and other projects between our labs also exemplified the ongoing collaborative spirit among sister Lebanese universities.”

In her remarks upon receiving the award, Dr. Fostok said, "I am pleased and honored for having been selected as the recipient of the "Outstanding Publication" Award for 2018 by the editorial board of the "Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia". I am grateful to Dr. Russell Hovey, the journal's editor-in-chief, and to the entire editorial board for offering me this valuable award and for recognizing my accomplishment at the Gordon Research Conference on Mammary Gland Biology. I would like to acknowledge my co-authors Dr. Rabih Talhouk, Dr. Mirvat El-Sibai and Dr. Marwan El-Sabban. My awarded manuscript, "Gap Junctions and Wnt Signaling in the Mammary Gland: a Cross-Talk?", sheds light on the interplay between gap junctions and the Wnt signaling pathways and proposes a model in which this cross-talk regulates the development and tumorigenesis of the mammary gland. This model has been validated in my recent study "Connexin 43 Loss Triggers Cell Cycle Entry and Invasion in Non-Neoplastic Breast Epithelium: A Role for Noncanonical Wnt Signaling", published in "Cancers" as part of the special issue "Gap Junctions and Connexins in Cancer Formation, Progression, and Therapy". In this study, I investigated the role of the gap junction protein connexin 43 in homeostasis and tumorigenesis of the breast epithelium. Reduced expression of connexin 43 has been previously reported in breast cancer, suggesting a tumor suppressive role. Using a 3-D culture model of non-neoplastic human mammary epithelial HMT-3522 S1 cells, I studied the effects of silencing connexin 43 on mammary epithelial proliferation and migration, two processes implicated in normal mammary development and deregulated in breast cancer, and I investigated the signaling pathways that act downstream of connexin 43 loss. I have shown that the loss of connexin 43 expression in the mammary epithelium activates Rho GTPase signaling, which acts downstream of the noncanonical Wnt pathway. This was associated with enhanced cell cycle entry and proliferation rate, concomitantly with the upregulation of c-Myc and cyclin D1. Silencing connexin 43 additionally altered the normal morphology of mammary acini and triggered motility and invasion."

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