Message From the Principal Investigator

I met the thrill of discovery in the clinical laboratory of a local community hospital, where I analyzed the results of my experiments studying recombinant human erythropoietin in mice as a freshman in high school. A couple of years into the research, the experiments moved out of my basement and into the laboratory of Gregory Longmore, at Washington University.

In college at Harvard, I avoided heavy laboratory involvement, instead focusing my efforts on rounding out my education, analyzing poetry, traveling the world with a singing group, and finding a love for theoretical large molecule organic chemistry. Upon matriculation to Johns Hopkins medical school, I pursued patient-oriented research under the mentorship of Paul Sponseller. Clinical projects fit better within and between the responsibilities of my clinical training. While they satisfied my need to be productive and fit my goals for an academic career, they made me ever more anxious to pursue basic investigation again in earnest.

Understanding my enthusiasm, the orthopaedics department chairman at Iowa, Joseph Buckwalter, supported my desire to pursue a basic science research during my spare time as a surgical resident. He and another faculty surgeon, Jose Morcuende, arranged for me to work with Val Sheffield, an experienced genetics investigator. During internship, I met a technician at 5 a.m. each morning in the lab to get some work done prior to the beginning of my clinical duties, closer to 7. Generating a conditional Ext1 mouse targeting construct took me many months, but was finally successful. Most importantly, I learned again the thrill of discovery when I analyzed the first mice to form osteochondromas, nearly 5 years after starting the project.

Scientific success will ultimately be measured by my ability to generate new knowledge that tangibly benefits patients under my care. While that is clearly far-sighted in its scope as a goal, it is not unreachable. It was with that in mind that I came to the University of Utah to be mentored by Mario Capecchi in the generation and study of mouse models of sarcoma.

Every good surgeon should be about the work of putting himself out of business. As an oncologic, ablative surgeon, I have more than just my oncologic failures adding impetus and fervor to such work. Even oncologic success in the form of long-term survival usually comes at the cost of significant losses in function and comfort for a patient with an extremity sarcoma. While I do not think that surgery will no longer be necessary for most sarcomas by the end of my career, increases in the success rates of cure and decreases in the morbidity of the applicable systemic and surgical treatments can be achieved if we understand in better detail their biology.

That we do not already optimally understand the biology of sarcomas is readily apparent during the clinical care of patients with these diseases. There have been few advances in the clinical care of sarcomas since the early 1990s. The Jones Lab hopes to change that.

Mary Beckerle

Kevin B. Jones, MD
Principal Investigator

Cancer Center Bio