Dr. Nikiforov's research is focused on thyroid cancer genomics and mechanisms of chromosomal rearrangements and other mutations induced by ionizing radiation in thyroid cells and other cell types. Since 2000, Dr. Nikiforov's research activities have led to four scientific discoveries. These discoveries described below have resulted in more than 120 published papers and form the basis of Dr. Nikiforov's current work.
1.The discovery that genes involved in recurrent chromosomal rearrangements in cancer cells are localized in proximity to each other in the nuclei of normal human cells at the time of exposure to ionizing radiation or other genotoxic stress (Science, 2000, 290:138-141).
2.The discovery that BRAF oncogene can be activated as a result of chromosomal rearrangement (J Clin Invest, 2005,115:94-101).
3.The discovery that in thyroid cancer, chromosomal rearrangements represent the main mutational mechanism in tumors arising as a result of exposure to ionizing radiation, whereas point mutations are a mechanism of spontaneous (chemical) carcinogenesis (J Clin Invest, 2005,115:94-101).
4.The discovery of ALK activation in thyroid cancer as a result of STRN-ALK fusion (PNAS, 2014, 111:4233-8).
Current research activities of Dr. Nikiforov's lab are focused on further understanding the molecular mechanisms of radiation-induced carcinogenesis and chromosomal rearrangements in human cells. Specifically, the studies aim to establish the number of double-strand DNA breaks required for the formation of a chromosomal rearrangement after exposure to ionizing radiation and identify the DNA repair mechanisms involved in this process. The results of this research will allow better understanding of carcinogenesis induced by ionizing radiation and help to develop measures for alleviating and preventing the carcinogenic effect of radiation exposure.
Another direction of Dr. Nikiforov's research is centered on finding novel mutations and gene fusions in thyroid cancer using next-generation sequencing and applying the current knowledge in molecular genetics of thyroid cancer to the clinical management of patients with thyroid nodules. Specifically, the studies in progress aim to define the diagnostic utility of molecular markers for preoperative diagnosis of cancer in thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsies and to characterize several novel chromosomal rearrangements discovered in thyroid cancer by next generation sequencing.