Natasha T. Hill, Ph.D., graduated in June 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from California State University, San Bernardino. After graduating, she attended California State University, Fullerton, where she worked towards a master’s degree in biochemistry. Her thesis project focused on characterizing a potential liable iron shuttle within the cytoplasm of mammalian cells and was performed under the direction of Dr. Maria Linder. Dr. Hill completed her Ph.D. training in biomedical sciences with a concentration in molecular genetics and cell biology at Wright State University under the mentorship of Dr. Madhavi Kadakia. Dr. Hill's dissertation research focused on understanding the vitamin D receptor and vitamin D mediated regulation of the protooncogene ΔNp63α in basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas.
In 2016, Dr. Hill began her postdoctoral training with Dr. Isaac Brownell to expand her understanding of skin cancer development, progression, and treatment. Her current research includes investigating the molecular pathogenesis of the neuroendocrine skin cancer Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) and developing novel therapeutic combinations that show selective efficacy in MCC tumors with minimal toxicity in normal cells. In 2019, Dr. Hill was named an NIH Independent Research Scholar in the inaugural cohort of the award. Through this appointment, Dr. Hill will serve as a junior faculty member in the NIAMS, leading a team of independent researchers.
Dr. Hill’s overarching research goal is to understand the pathobiology underlying the development and progression of skin malignancies in order to develop new cancer treatment options. She is addressing this through the two projects listed below.
Pre-clinical development of disulfiram and copper with or without etoposide for the treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma.
Disulfiram plus copper is a promising new treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma. It synergizes with the traditional anticancer drug, etoposide. Dr. Hill will investigate the utility of repurposing disulfiram combined with copper and etoposide for the treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma. By repurposing approved drugs, the combination can immediately be available for patients who need effective treatments.
The paranuclear dot’s role in promoting Merkel cell carcinoma.
Staining for Cytokeratin 20 and other intermediate filaments in a paranuclear dot pattern is a histological feature used to diagnose Merkel cell carcinoma. The functional significance of these paranuclear protein aggregates is unknown. Dr. Hill will investigate the paranuclear dot and its function in the development and progression of Merkel cell carcinoma. Her group has discovered that the paranuclear dot may allow Merkel cell carcinoma tumors to evade extrinsic apoptosis and promote cell cycle progression by sequestering FADD and RB.