- Aim 1. Elucidate the role of genetic and epigenetic alterations in cancer.
Data generated by contemporary genomics approaches have revealed that cancers carry many genomic and epigenetic alterations. Specific genetic and epigenetic events are crucial in driving or contributing to tumor development, progression, and therapy resistance. Like chemical and environmental carcinogenesis, viral tumorigenesis is a multi-step process that involves host-viral interactions affecting immunity, epigenetics, and DNA repair. MOO investigators utilize state-of-the-art technologies to identify and study the key genetic and epigenetic events in cancer and therapy resistance with the goal of understanding and targeting molecular mechanisms directly related to these processes.
- Aim 2. Define the role of regulatory microRNAs and long noncoding RNAs in oncogenesis.
In addition to approximately 30,000 protein-encoding genes that comprise only about 3% of the human genome, we now understand that a much larger proportion of our genome express a complex family of noncoding RNAs, including microRNAs (miRNAs) and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). Dysregulation of these noncoding RNAs, which regulate many molecular mechanisms, is a recently identified hallmark of many cancer cells. MOO investigators work to decipher molecular mechanisms of noncoding RNA dysregulation and their contributions to tumorigenesis, which will lead to identification of novel biomarkers for cancer diagnostics and development of RNA-based therapeutic approaches.
- Aim 3. Translate MOO discoveries into novel therapeutic approaches.
By achieving a greater understanding of genomic and epigenetic neoplastic alterations and the role of noncoding RNAs in tumorigenesis, MOO investigators accelerate the identification of new cancer biomarkers and novel potential therapeutic targets. These biomarkers and targets have the potential to be translated into clinical applications by providing precision medicine approaches to significantly improve cancer treatment. Our efforts to promote the translation of MOO discoveries are aided by MOO co-leader Daohong Zhou, MD a translational cancer researcher, who helps foster close collaborations among members in the MOO, the Cancer Therapeutics and Host Response (CTHR) and the Cancer Control and Population Sciences programs.
The long-term goal of these aims is to develop rational bases for combining interventions using these targets in a patient-specific, precision medicine manner, and to translate them into novel therapeutic approaches.
In summary, the MOO program impacts all programs and missions of UFHCC by performing cutting edge basic and translational research to identify and pursue novel therapeutic approaches. MOO members are highly collaborative (Inter and intra-programmatic) and train the next generation of cancer researchers.