Non-Coding RNAs in Cancer – An Interview with Dr. Martin Pichler

Professor Martin Pichler, who is the Collection Editor for the International Journal of Molecular Sciences Topical Collection of “Regulation by Non-Coding RNAs” [1].

lncRNAProfessor Martin Pichler, MD, MSc, received his MD at the Medical University of Graz, and his Master degree in Molecular Biology at the Karl-Franzens University Graz, Austria. Dr. Pichler continued his cancer research training in the laboratory of Professor Gerald Hoefler and Professor Kurt Zatloukal, both Institute of Pathology, Medical University of Graz, Austria and in the lab of Professor George Adrian Calin at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, USA. Finally, Dr. Pichler became a board-certified specialist in Internal Medicine, at the Division of Oncology, Medical University of Graz in Austria.

Currently, he is an Associate Professor at the Division of Oncology, Medical University of Graz, and the Head of the Research Unit for non-coding RNA and genome editing at the Medical University of Graz. He also holds an Adjunct Assistant Professor position at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.

Professor Pichler authored more than 135 peer-reviewed scientific articles and has received several awards and fellowships. The main focus in his own lab in Austria is the characterization of non-coding RNAs in cancer and their usefulness as novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in cancer patients.

Here, in this interview, we are able to find out his opinions on the field of non-coding RNAs in cancer and discuss what publications Dr. Pichler would like to see in his Topical Collection.

  1. How did you first become interested in non-coding RNAs and genome editing in cancer, and is there a particular person who has influenced you in your career?

The first time I realized the existence of long non-coding RNAs in cancer was in 2006, when I did my first postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of my previous boss (i.e., Prof. Kurt Zatloukal from the Medical University of Graz, Austria) who characterized and discovered a novel transcript in liver cancer. This highly up-regulated in liver cancer (HULC) transcript was described by some of my lab mates at a time when the concept of long non-coding RNAs and how they influence cancer cells was quite new (see also Panzitt et al. [2]). Besides that, there were a lot of people interacting and influencing my career. Just to mention the most important ones, there was my supervisor at the undergraduate student level, a pathologist (i.e., Professor Gerald Hoefler, Medical University of Graz), who taught me how to think scientifically, how to apply for grants and who remained a great mentor for many years , even after finishing my MD. Second, Professor George Adrian Calin (MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA) gave me a very specialized education in the field of non-coding RNAs. George Calin made several big discoveries in the field, including the first link between microRNAs and cancer, the first link between ultra-conserved genes and cancer, and the description of CCAT2, a long non-coding RNA in colorectal cancer. I succeeded a three years training in his lab and this scientific setting was one of the most impressive and informative trainings I have ever experienced. Two other people, Tony Gutschner and Hui Ling, both postdoctoral fellows at that time and very bright guys, were great colleagues and scientists who helped shape my expertise in the field of non-coding RNAs.

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