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The Cancer Cell Biology Track

Graduate Faculty


Cancers Studied

Description of Research

Sherif Abdel-Rahman


In my laboratory, the focus is on toxicogenomic and pharmacogenomic research. I am specifically interested in understanding how inherited genetic characteristics influence the susceptibility of individuals to environmental agents and affect their response to drug therapy.

Xiaodong Cheng Ovarian
The major research focus in our laboratory is function and regulation of protein kinases and small GTPases and their roles in cancers. We are also conducting study of the molecular mechanism of ovarian cell transformation and tumorgenesis using a genetically defined ovarian cancer model and functional proteomics approaches.
Dai Chung Neuroblastoma

Our ongoing projects include (1) characterizing expression of GRP and GRP-R in various clinical stages of neuroblastomas, (2) determining mechanisms involved in the regulation of GRP-R gene and protein expression, and (3) identifying the role of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase in GRP-induced proliferation of neuroblastomas.

Tom Albrecht


Our research program investigates the relationship of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) to oncogenic processes. Our work has shown that HCMV interacts with chemical carcinogens or radiation to induce more-than-additive, usually synergistic, increases in genetic damage endpoints. We are now investigating the mechanisms through which these effects may occur, including cellular signal transduction, perturbation of cell cycle regulation, and interference with repair processes and programmed cell death.

Cornelis Elferink


Toxins, pathogenic infection (viral and bacterial), and physical injury to the liver results in a loss of hepatic tissue, triggering a regenerative response intent on restoring liver cell mass. Dysregulation in the repair process can lead to liver failure or liver cancer. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor functionally identified with proliferative and apoptotic processes. Exposure to the prototypical AhR ligand (TCDD, dioxin) induces a host of toxic and adaptive endpoints, including inhibition of liver regeneration following tissue injury. Our long-term goal is to understand mechanistically how the AhR contributes to liver homeostasis by regulating cell proliferation and apoptosis, and thereby identify the molecular basis for TCDD-induced disruption of normal biological processes.

Lisa Elferink


We are interested in how dysregulated cMet endocytosis and down regulation contribute to the dissemination and metastases of pancreatic and hepatocellular carcinomas. The intensity, duration and specificity of signal transduction through cMet are regulated by ligand-mediated endocytosis and lysosomal degradation. Sustained signaling from the receptor tyrosine kinase cMet correlates with early stage invasion, dissemination and metastases of several aggressive human gastrointestinal cancers particularly pancreatic adenocarcinomas and hepatocellular carcinomas.

Rinat Esenaliev


My cancer-related research includes drug and gene delivery in tumor cells with novel techniques. We study enhancement of anti-cancer drug and gene delivery in vitro and in vivo in nude mice bearing human colon, breast, prostate, or ovarian tumors.


Mark Evers

GI cancers

Current research interests include the evaluation of cellular mechanisms leading to the differentiation of the developing intestine and the growth of normal and neoplastic GI tissues. Another area of active interest in the laboratory is the better understanding of the signaling pathways which contribute to intestinal cell differentiation.  

Miriam Falzon


PTHrP is able to enter the nucleus and/or nucleolus and influence cell cycle progression and apoptosis (intracrine effects). We are studying the effects of PTHrP on cell proliferation of breast cancer cells. We have shown that PTHrP localizes to the nucleus and produces a net increase in breast cancer cell proliferation. The mechanism for this effect is being investigated with respect to cell cycle regulation.  

David Gorenstein

Drug design

We have a major program oriented toward the combinatorial selection, rational design, synthesis and structural characterization of oligonucleotide analogues (especially dithiophosphate analogues selected from large combinatorial libraries - "thioaptamers") and other agents directed toward manipulation of key proteins involved in inflammation and cancer such as NF-KappaB. In addition multidimensional NMR is currently being carried out on the thioaptamer agents and protein complexes and these are used for development of a proteomics chip.

Tianyan Gao General

The focus of my lab is to study molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of a novel protein phosphatase named PHLPP. Research involves identification of novel interacting proteins, biochemical characterization of signal transduction pathways governing the phosphatase activity, and investigation of the tumor suppressor function of the phosphatase in mouse models. 

Owen Hamill


We are interested in the role of mechanosensitive channels and Ca2+ signaling in tumor cell migration and invasion.  We study prostate tumor cells and use patch clamp recording, Ca2+ imaging and molecular biological techniques.  Our aim is to understand the signaling pathways that switch a cell from a nonmigratory to a migratory phenotype.

Mark Hellmich Colon
My major research interest is in the elucidation of signaling pathways regulated by heptahelical
G-protein linked peptide hormone receptors of gastrointestinal tracts, specifically those pathways coupled to the bombesin and gastrin family of receptors.
Jianhang Jia General The objective of the research in Dr. Jia's laboratory is to elucidate the mechanisms by which Hedgehog signal is transduced. Studies on the components of the Hh signaling pathway may provide new avenues for developing diagnostic tools and therapeutic treatment of cancers which associate with dysregulation of Hh signaling.

Stanley M. Lemon


My laboratory works on the pathogenesis of hepatitis C virus infections, and the role of this virus in the development of primary hepatocellular carcinoma.

Chunming Liu Colon Dr. Liu's Lab studies  the molecular mechanism of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling and JAK/STAT signaling, and the role of these signaling pathways in development, oncogenesis and stem cell self-renewal.

Bruce A. Luxon

Drug discovery

Research in my lab covers a broad range of interests including bioinformatics, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and systems biology. We also have programs for the development of novel thioaptamer-based diagnostics and therapeutics targeting infectious disease and cancer.  We are especially interested in the EGFR and other RTKs as targets for cancer therapeutics.

Lee-Jane Lu

Breast Cancer

Our lab studies breast cancer prevention, public health; breast cancer biomarker discovery; diet and breast cancer

Luis Martinez Breast

My lab is interested in determining the underlying mechanism(s) for mtp53’s oncogenic activity. The long-term aim of the lab is to elucidate the critical functions mutant p53 utilizes to promote cancer development, in order to generate new targets for therapeutic intervention.

Sankar Mitra


Linkage of cancer induction and treatment to DNA damage repair

Kathleen O'Connor



Our lab is interested in understanding how advanced cancers, specifically carcinomas, invade and metastasize. Specific areas of active investigation are centered around understand how integrins and integrin signaling control cAMP metabolism, Rho family GTPases and gene transcription and thereby contribute to the aggressive behavior of advanced cancers.

Don Powell


The Powell laboratory studies the colon cancer microenvironment; i.e., epithelial/mesenchymal interactions between the colonic stroma and normal, adenoma and carcinoma colonic epithelia. We are particularly interested in the biology and role of “activated” fibroblast (myofibroblasts) which constitutively express COX-2 and other factors that contribute to colon tumor progression.

Louise Prakash General Translesion synthesis across mutagenic/carcinogenic DNA lesions
Satya Prakash General Translesion synthesis across mutagenic/carcinogenic DNA lesions
Vicente Resto

General with emphasis on head and neck cancers

My laboratory focuses on the study of lymphatic metastasis with special interest in the molecular mediators of lodgment and growth of tumor cells within the lymph node microenvironment.  Furthermore, we are interested in understanding the impact these interactions have towards promoting tumor tolerance by the immune system.  To these ends, we apply functional genetic screening, biophysical, and biochemical techniques to the study of this novel biology.

Sarita Sastry


My lab studies the role of protein tyrosine phosphatase in controlling cell migration. My long-term goal is to understand their function and regulation during tumor cell invasion and tumor angiogenesis.

Pomila Singh

GI Cancers .Dr. Singh's laboratory is conducting research in the area of hormones and growth factors as it relates to colon carcinogenesis.

E. Brad Thompson


1. Steroid hormones and cancers of several types.
2. Use of peptide therapy for groove and hematologous malignancies.

Shahid Umar


To understand: how pro-inflammatory cytokines and dietary fiber regulate nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB) and -catenin mediated increases in cell census in the colon in the absence and presence of chronic inflammation and, whether these conditions facilitate subsequent mucosal priming for colon carcinogenesis.

Roger A. Vertrees

Lung cancer

My lab is a translational lab that deals with all aspects of the pathobiology of lung cancer from cell culture and study of mechanisms to clinical trials. Our long range goal is to developing new therapies for patients with lung cancer. Working with Dr. Zwischenberger we have developed an extracorporeal method of delivering hyperthermia to patients with this disease and in our first clinical trial demonstrated significant beneficial effects of hyperthermia.

Jon Ward


Dr. Ward's research focuses on the effects of exposures to genotoxic chemicals in the environment. A particular focus of his research is on understanding the mechanisms by which 1,3-butadiene, a carcinogenic chemical used in rubber manufacturing and a common air pollutant, induces mutations in occupationally exposed human subjects and in mice.

Cheryl S. Watson

Breast Pituitary

Dr. Watson's work centers on the basic mechanisms of steroid hormone action, specializing more recently in nongenomic pathways. Her publications focus on cellular mechanisms of signaling involved in the growth of breast, pituitary, and lymphoid tumors. She also studies the signaling pathways by which estrogen mimetics (environmental estrogens, phytoestrogens) act on these tumor and organ systems.

Jingwu Xie Gastric
Basal Cell
The main focus in Dr. Xie's laboratory is to investigate genetic alterations of cancer, particularly the hedgehog signaling transduction pathway, and its role in the development of cancer.
Peter (Binhua) Zhou Breast Metastasis, the spread of cells from a primary tumor to distant sites, is the main cause of death in patients with cancer. Our long-term goal is to eliminate the incidence of cancer metastasis by understanding the molecular mechanism underlying the initial step of metastasis.

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Last Revised: September 28, 2007