Donald E. Ayer, PhD
Professor, Department of Oncological Sciences
Donald Ayer, PhD, is an investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and a professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah (U of U). He is a member of the Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation Program.
Ayer is a leader in the area of gene regulation and its role in normal and cancer cell growth. His research focuses on how cells regulate a transcription factor known as Myc, which is mutated in a wide variety of cancers. In normal cells, Myc is responsible for turning on the genes that are required for cell division. In cancer cells, Myc is "hyperactive" and causes cells to divide continuously, creating excess, unnecessary cells that form a tumor. Ayer's research group investigates how Myc functions in normal and cancer cells, and they work to increase the understanding of basic gene control mechanisms. This information could greatly improve cancer diagnosis methods and treatment.
Ayer, a native of Michigan, earned a PhD in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Colorado. From 1989 to 1995, he received additional training under the direction of Robert Eisenman, PhD, a National Academy of Science member, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. In 1995, he was recruited to the U of U and HCI. He has published numerous research papers in leading scientific journals such as Cell and Genes and Development, and is the author of several book chapters in the area of gene expression.