Cancer Biology and Developmental Genetics
The ability of a cell to control its growth and differentiation potential in response to particular environmental or developmental cues is essential in determining its correct function.
When a cell loses this ability for whatever reason, it may grow in an unregulated fashion, leading to tumor formation and cancer as one possibility, or alternatively to a variety of developmental defects and other diseases.
The department houses a large group of investigators whose programs impinge on these questions at many different levels, and whose research approaches range from the use of model organisms (particularly several mouse models) in both classical and reverse genetic analyses, through research with cultured cells and viral or environmental carcinogens, all the way to determining the structure of transcription factors and signaling complexes intimately involved in particular growth and development pathways.
Several of the programs focus on different cellular signal transduction pathways that regulate the readout of essential genetic programs from the nucleus. Once inside the nucleus, such control resides in the function of specific transcription factors, an important focus for a number of our investigators.
Alteration in genetic stability, either at the level of DNA mutation or at the level of chromosome structure, represents an additional key area for loss of cell growth regulation that is under active investigation in the department.
In a more translational vein, our structural biologists aim to bring their molecular insights into the realm of therapeutic practice, with anti-cancer immunotherapy via antibody engineering representing one recent novel direction.