Tenley Archer Outsmarting Brain Cancer

“I have found that my experience at Marlboro scales to other projects,” says Tenley Archer ’03. “The Plan gave me a solid experience in completing a big project, and made it less daunting to do it again, and again.” Following her Plan on developmental cell biology, Tenley started graduate school in the lab of her outside examiner, Elena Casey, at Georgetown University. Having completed her PhD with a dissertation on the role of transcription factors in neural development, she is now doing postdoctoral research at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“As a postdoc, I get to be really creative about solving scientific problems, and I have the best group of people to work with,” says Tenley. She and her colleagues are studying medulloblastoma, the leading malignant brain cancer in children. Her team has identified several mutations associated with this disease, and her own work focuses on unraveling how some of these mutated genes contribute to cancer, in order to propose new treatments.

“We quickly realized we needed to take a systems biology approach because there are so few similarities from patient to patient. If a new drug will ever be successful, it has to be useful in a large group of patients. My favorite things about this work are the collaborative atmosphere, teamwork opportunities, cutting-edge methods, and developing and testing new ideas.”

Tenley attributes much of her teamwork and leadership skills, crucial to project management, to her years of involvement in the Outdoor Program. “The OP, under the stewardship of Randy Knaggs, was one of the best parts of Marlboro for me, and imparted on me tools that I draw from every day. Caving, hiking, skiing, or paddling can get people out of their comfort zones, and puts them in positions that force them to find more abilities inside them than they thought possible.”