Postdoctoral Alumni - Caleb Bailey

 

 

Caleb M. Bailey
Associate Professor, Department of Biology
Brigham Young University

Caleb M. Bailey, Ph.D., is grateful that he was able to pursue novel cancer-related research studies that were out-of-the-box compared to traditional cancer research approaches during his postdoctoral work at the Stowers Institute. Not every scientist in the U.S. has that latitude, but the Institute is not the typical U.S. academic research environment. The Institute’s financial strength allows scientists to focus their talent, energy, and time on conducting research rather than on more time-consuming activities like writing research grants.

“I also benefitted tremendously from the Stowers commitment to being at the forefront of technologies associated with imaging, microscopy and molecular biology. These technologies made my research possible,” says Bailey, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Paul Kulesa, Ph.D., from 2008 to 2014.

Bailey’s research examined the relationship between melanoma cells and their ancestral home in the embryonic neural crest cells, the parental cells of melanocytes. Melanoma is an invasive cancer of melanocytes, which are pigment cells. Using two-photon time-lapse microscopy, Kulesa and Bailey mapped the metastasis of transplanted human melanoma cells in chick embryos. When these malignant cells metastasized, they followed the same pathways that had been used by their ancestors, the neural crest cells, during their migration in the embryo.

The scientists also determined that EphB6, a tyrosine kinase receptor, can force metastatic melanoma cells to deviate from these ancestral pathways, and that the potential for metastasis is substantially lower in EphB6-expressing melanoma cells than in melanoma cells that do not express this receptor. Thus, the EphB6 receptor may be a metastasis suppressor, said Bailey, first author of the September 2014 Molecular Cancer Research journal paper about the research.

“We believe that these findings may provide new angles for therapeutic intervention for metastatic melanoma, which is currently untreatable in most cases,” Bailey says. Kulesa, the other co-author, is the reason that Bailey applied for a postdoctoral position at the Institute. “I was attracted to both the research and technology of his lab,” says Bailey, who received two external awards while a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute. They included the National Cancer Institute’s Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award and the American Association of Anatomists postdoctoral fellowship.

Bailey is now an Associate Professor in biology at the Brigham Young University campus in Idaho. “My primary responsibilities are teaching,” he says. “We utilize scientific research and laboratory experience to provide enhanced learning opportunities for our students.”
While Bailey’s new position allows him to continue investigating melanoma metastasis, the research itself is not the end goal. “Rather, it is a tool to teach undergraduate students how to think and how to apply the scientific method.”