Understanding human cancers and developing strategies for treating specific cancers has been at the forefront of biology for many decades. The nature of investigations into this area continues to evolve as we understand more and face newer challenges. The Cancer Biology faculty within MIC focus on cutting-edge basic cancer research as well as exposure to state-of-the-art clinical cancer patient care and treatment. Areas of research include signaling in cancer cells, mechanisms of genetic and cellular perturbations that predispose to cancer, influence of the tumor microenvironment on tumor progression and metastases, and tumor immunology and immunotherapy.
Examples of projects currently undertaken by our faculty include:
- Dr. Amy Bouton studying how altered signaling in tumor cells and the tumor microenvironment can influence tumor progression;
- Studies of Dr. David Kashatus on how the dynamics of mitochondrial fission and fusion contribute to tumor initiation and growth; and
- Studies of Dr. Roger Abounader on how c-Met and PTEN regulate brain tumors.
Investigations in Cancer Biology by our faculty use cutting-edge methodologies to probe many different questions related to tumor initiation, progression and therapies. Our investigators use a variety of genetically engineered tumor mouse models and sophisticated 3D culture models, along with state-of-the-art microscopy, including two-photon, electron, and super-resolution microscopy. For example, Dr. Kwon Park is using a combination of genetically engineered mice and 3D cell culture systems to identify and characterize genetic drivers of small cell lung cancer; Dr. Drew Dudley’s lab is focused on vascular biology and cancer and is studying how vascular dysfunction in tumors contributes to tumor progression and metastasis; Dr. Hui Zong is using a genetic mosaic mouse model to study tumor cell dynamics in vivo at single-cell resolution; Dr. David Brautigan is using novel approaches in enzymology, genomics, and genetics to study how phosphatases control cell cycle and tumor cell proliferation. Since cancer therapeutics is a major focus of the UVA School of Medicine, there is substantial interaction between faculty members addressing basic questions in cancer biology and clinicians in the UVA Health System (examples include those of Drs. Jill Slack-Davis and Susan Modesitt addressing ovarian cancers as part of the Women’s Oncology group, Drs. Engelhard and Craig Slingluff addressing tumor immunotherapy/peptide vaccines for melanomas). In addition to providing an exciting way to both ask and address fundamentally important questions in cancer biology, such interactions provide an intellectually stimulating training environment for students and post-doctoral fellows. It is important to recognize that many of the faculty whose research focuses on cancer biology collaborate extensively with those working in immunology and infectious disease. Such interactions broaden the scope of the questions that can be asked and enrich the intellectual rigor and depth that can be achieved in addressing the key scientific problems.
Basic and translational brain tumor research
Regulation of gene expression during lymphocyte development
Signaling Pathways and Breast Cancer
Cell signaling in Cancer and Ciliopathies.
Tumor microenvironment and mechanisms of tumor neovascularization
Identification of MHC-restricted tumor antigens / Control of T cell homing to tumors / Tertiary lymphoid structures and intratumoral immunity
Immune mechanisms of pathogenic antibody production in allergy and autoimmunity
Innate immunity, chronic disease, host-parasite interactions, Toxoplasma gondii, proteomics
Signal transduction in cancer cells
Post Transcriptional Gene Regulation and the Molecular Biology of Human Retroviruses
The Role of Mitochondrial Fusion and Fission in Tumorigenesis.
Human Herpes virus associated with malignancy, including Kaposi's Sarcoma
Maintaining and Breaking Immune Tolerance
Mechanisms of organ development and homeostasis and tumor development
Nuclear Transport in Chromatin Assembly and Transcriptional Regulation
Apoptotic cell clearance mechanisms in health and disease
Human Immunodeficiency; Virus Gene Expression
Influence of commensal microbes on immune homeostasis, anti-tumor immunity, and metastasis
Early detection, cancer prevention, and tumor microenvironment