Cancer Biology



Cancer – know thy enemy, know thyself.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu advised that to win battles, one must “know your enemies and know yourself.” We now know a lot about many cancers (the “enemies”), from the many deregulated signaling, metabolic, transcriptional, maintenance, and other pathways that are perturbed, to the genomic changes of thousands of individual cancers. And yet we do not really understand the forces that both limit and promote cancer development, nor how to fully exploit this knowledge for patient's benefit.

Studies in our department are geared towards understanding the enemy, cancer, using genome-wide genetic screens to identify its metabolic and signaling vulnerabilities, using proteomics to understand how it interacts with and modifies its tissue environment, and using metabolomics to reveal how cancer processes sugars and other molecules differently than normal cells. Labs are also exploring how RNAs and protein transcription factors regulate chromatin structure and gene expression to dictate cell fate decisions relevant to cancer pathogenesis and therapeutic responses. Other studies are geared towards understanding how the causes of cancer, like aging and smoking, influence the evolutionary trajectories of cells by altering tissue microenvironments.

Importantly, as Tzu advised, we must also understand how biological systems normally function (the “yourself”) to appreciate and exploit cancer-specific mechanisms. Additional research in the department seeks to understand how cells divide, how they regulate gene expression (including epigenetic control of genes and the processing of the messenger RNAs), and how these processes are perturbed in cancers.


Faculty with Research in this Area


David Bentley -- 500 x 600

David Bentley, PhD

Messenger RNA Production by RNA polymerase II

Julia Promisel Cooper -- 500 x 600

Julia Promisel Cooper, PhD

An expanded view of telomeres and their roles in safeguarding genome stability

James DeGregori -- 500 x 600

James DeGregori, PhD

Cancer: understanding its evolution and targeting its dependencies

Elan Eisenmesser -- 500 x 600

Elan Eisenmesser, PhD

Viral protein/host protein interactions and enzyme motions

Kirk Hansen -- 500 x 600

Kirk Hansen, PhD

Quantitative and functional proteomics, extracellular matrix processing and organization

Jay Hesselberth -- 500 x 600

Jay Hesselberth, PhD

Nucleic acid repair

Aaron Johnson -- 500 x 600

Aaron Johnson, PhD

Mechanisms of chromatin-mediated gene silencing

Neel Mukherjee -- 500 x 600

Neelanjan Mukherjee, PhD

The dynamics of RNA regulatory networks

Srinivas Ramachandran -- 500 x 600

Srinivas Ramachandran, PhD

In vivo nucleosome structure and dynamics

Beat Vogeli -- 500 x 600

Beat Vögeli, PhD

NMR spectroscopy for the elucidation of conformation and communication networks within and between proteins and nucleic acids

Rui Zhao -- 500 x 600

Rui Zhao, PhD

Molecular mechanism of pre-mRNA splicing; drug design targeting transcriptional complex in breast cancer