The Molecular and Cellular Oncology Program (MCO) organizes an outstanding group of researchers whose work provides insights into gene expression regulation and its deregulation in cancer, the cellular response to genomic insults, the molecular structure of cancer-relevant proteins, and new signaling processes driving tumor growth.
Our researchers collaborate with other programs to translate their basic discoveries into better tools for cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Research in the MCO program is directed toward elucidating fundamental biological processes in cancer biology and translating these basic discoveries into better tools for cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment through collaborative research with other CU Cancer Center programs.
Maintenance of Genomic Integrity - Investigators work on genomic re-arrangements and retro-transposition; DNA replication, repair, and the DNA damage cell cycle checkpoint; mutagenesis and the response to ionizing irradiation, telomerase, and DNA end-repair.
Gene Expression and Biomarkers - Investigators work on specification of cell fates; nuclear acceptors of signaling and environmental pathways; fundamental mechanisms of transcriptional regulation; the interplay between transcription and RNA processing, cancer survival pathways; and the regulation of protein synthesis and proteomic identification of cancer biomarkers that result from altered gene expression.
Cancer Structural Biology - Investigators delineate the molecular structure of RNA, DNA-binding proteins, signaling molecules, and oligopeptides using biophysical techniques, cryo-EM, NMR, and X-ray crystallography.
The 2021 Molecular and Cellular Oncology (MCO) annual retreat focused on how researchers who are studying molecular mechanisms in cancer could incorporate the issues of high relevance to the catchment area and health disparities that are driven by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
The keynote speaker, Anne-Kathrin Eisfeld, MD, from Ohio State University, presented on racial and socioeconomic disparities in survival of adult AML patients. The retreat also featured Chris Gignoux, PhD, presenting about the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine biobank, Evelinn Borrayo, PhD, presenting on disparities in cancer patients in Colorado, Adam Green, MD, presented his work on disparities in CNS cancer patients in the US and CO, and Sean Davis, MD, PhD, presented related Campus Resources. Alexis Zukowski, a postdoc trainee in an MCO lab, discussed how she is customizing a new chromatin-based assay for low-cost biomarker detection to make it more applicable to underserved populations.
Following the presentations was a discussion session with our panel of experts. This brainstorming session produced many good ideas for how MCO can support researchers who want to incorporate race/ethnicity information into their work with bio-samples such as cell lines. One of the most insightful comments was from Sean Davis, MD, PhD, who told us that race/ethnicity information could be inferred from public (GEO) ChIP seq or RNAseq datasets.
MCO has compiled some resources to encourage Cancer Center members to consider diversity and disparity when designing their experiments. We are also spearheading efforts to provide funds for Cancer Center members to gather ancestry information of their biologic resources, so stay tuned for funding announcements!
Colorado Biobank Portal
The portal supports queries across ~1,300 genome-wide association studies using ICD-derived PheCodes. The GWAS runs were performed on full TOPMed imputation and involve ~50 million sites along the genome in our currently-genotyped freeze of ~34,000 CCPM participants.
Here is what you can do with the data:
Query by phenotype: Most phenotypes will autocomplete in the search bar. The mapping of phenotypes from ICD codes is available at https://phewascatalog.org/
This portal is intended to provide preliminary analyses to support grant proposals and generate hypotheses. If you are interested in accessing the tool, register at https://ucdenverdata.formstack.com/forms/cbe_user_signup_ccpm.
Articles that explain the need to consider genetic ancestry and sex
Papers that address the genetic background of common cell line models.
Online resources with ancestry/sex information for biologics:
COSMIC (catalog of somatic mutations in cancer)
Cellosaurus, a knowledge resource on cell lines.
Colorado Central Cancer Registry
NIH/NCI has several active calls for Basic Research in Cancer Health Disparities.
‘This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) encourages grant applications from investigators interested in conducting basic, mechanistic research into the biological/genetic causes of cancer health disparities.’
Think Outside the Box
to Help Colorado Cancer Patients and Win $2000!
Open to all MCO Lab Trainees!
* cancers of high relevance to Colorado: colorectal, melanoma, lung, breast, pediatric cancers
** underserved populations in CO such as rural, Hispanic & pediatric (you may address one or more)
#CCPM has genotyping (SNP) information from ~ 34,000 CO patients that comprise of 50 million variants. This database is useful to study common germline variants and their association with disease. It also has whole exome data from ~ 45,000 CO patients. Whole exome data allows studying genetic variation with the coding sequences of genes of interest. If your idea includes a request of genetic data from the CCPM Biobank, please reach out to Nikita Pozdeyev to discuss feasibility.
The Molecular and Cellular Oncology (MCO) Program of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, in collaboration with the office of Community Outreach and Engagement (COE), is offering a new pilot grant opportunity for Full and Mentored members of the MCO Program. Up to three $50,000 pilot grants will be awarded, depending on the merit of proposals received. Projects should be designed so that they can be realistically completed in one year. The intent of these pilots is to lead to national-level grants. Investigators will need to outline clearly how this pilot data will support future grant submissions. Proposals are due on June 15, 2023 and awards are anticipated to start on July 1, 2023.
The proposals will be competitively reviewed and assigned an NIH-style overall impact score based on significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach, environment, likelihood of producing results that will help obtain NCI or other national funding, and relevance to the catchment (more information below).
This opportunity has developed from discussions at the MCO Program’s 2022 and 2023 retreats and will include a scoring criteria based on how well the proposal addresses cancer topics of relevance to the Colorado population (‘the catchment’). The proposal will be considered particularly relevant if it addresses disparities in cancer risk and outcomes as influenced by race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, residence (e.g. rural vs. urban, proximity to environmental exposures like radon), or inherited factors within under-represented minority (URM) communities. For more information about UCCC-defined catchment priorities please see the COE Fact Sheet. The investigators may contact Evelinn Borrayo, Stacy Fisher, or Jan Lowery to discuss the application and catchment data. Investigators may also consider using genotyping data currently available through the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine (CCPM) Biobank and may discuss this approach with Nikita Pozdeyev.
Collaborative efforts leading to multi-PI and/or multi-project (SPORE or PPG) grants are encouraged. Projects will be awarded for 1 year. Extensions will be considered only in extreme circumstances. Recipients will be expected to submit competitive national grant proposals within 6 months following the completion of this pilot project.
Inquires about how well your project idea fits the mission of this pilot mechanism should be sent in a brief email
to Ellen Valentine.
Submit your application online at:
By 5:00 pm on June 15, 2023.
If you have any questions about the submission process, please contact Michelle Guney (CC_FundingOps@cuanschutz.edu).
Dr. Su is the Co-Leader for Molecular and Cellular Oncology (MCO) Program. She is a Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is an experienced investigator in the field of radiation biology of Drosophila and human cancer models. She is currently the PI of R35GM130374 and is one of two PIs for the NCI SBIR phase II contract 75N910196C00038. In addition to her role as program co-leader, Dr. Su serves as the Director of Graduate Student Affairs in her home department. She is the current President of the Drosophila Board and serves as the chair of NIH CSRS Study Section. She was appointed as program co-leader for MCO in 2018. As program co-leader, Dr. Su serves as the site leader for the University of Colorado Boulder Campus and a liaison for the Colorado State University and works closely with MCO co-leader Dr. Ernst to coordinate all aspects of MCO planning, development, execution, and evaluation.