Cell Growth Regulation and Cancer Biology Research

The Program in Cell Growth Regulation and Cancer Biology is interested in how pathways involved in cell migration, cell cycle control, telomerase regulation and survival are involved in cancer, aging, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Ping Lu's laboratory aims to elucidate molecular mechanisms of cell cycle control and telomerase regulation and to determine their roles in cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Lu has discovered a novel enzyme called Pin1 that is able to control protein structure after phosphorylation, thereby introducing a new signaling mechanism to regulate diverse cellular processes. Pin1 may be involved in the pathogenesis of breast cancer. In addition, his laboratory has identified several new proteins important for maintaining telomere structures, including PinX1, a conserved and potent telomerase inhibitor and a new tumor suppressor that has a major impact on the development of many common human cancers, such as breast cancer.

Dr. Thomas is interested in cancer cell biology focusing on elucidating signaling pathways, which control processes such as cell migration and survival, and how these signals are deregulated in different diseases. The laboratory has a long-standing interest in cytoskeletal scaffolding proteins and has used in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro approaches to elucidate their functions in migration of normal and cancerous cells. More recently, they have found links between some of these proteins and proteins involved in a cellular homeostasis process called autophagy, which is a process that has been linked to cancer, aging, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. The laboratory is interested in understanding how this process is regulated and its role in various diseases.

Dr. Ralph Scully's laboratory has as a major focus understanding how several tumor suppressor genes (BRCA1, BRCA2, the Bloom's Syndrome gene (BLM), Fanconi Anemia genes (FA) and histone H2AX) control sister chromatid recombination and how to relate this to their tumor suppressor functions. These studies may someday be applied for prevention and therapy of human cancers.