The focus of Dr. Donald (Will) Parsons’ research has been the development of large-scale (genomic) methods to identify and evaluate cancer-causing mutations in human tumors, with a goal of rapidly identifying genetic alterations which may serve as targets for new diagnostic tests and treatments. His work has resulted in the identification of numerous mutated genes and genetic pathways that contribute to tumor initiation and progression, providing a novel view of the genetic landscape of human cancers.
For example, an analysis of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most lethal brain tumor of both adults and children, for the first time identified mutation of the isocitrate dehydrogenase genes (IDH1 and IDH2) as a common and critical event in the development of gliomas. This discovery has opened a novel and potentially clinically-useful area of brain tumor research: further work evaluating the functional relation of these mutations to glioma development and the applicability of this finding for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes is ongoing.
Dr. Will Parsons is currently engaged in similar genomic analyses of several other pediatric solid tumors, with a focus on pediatric central nervous system cancers, his area of clinical interest.
Dr. Parsons is Co-Director of the Cancer Genetics and Genomics Program and a member of the Brain Tumor Program and Liver Tumor Program research laboratories.