The Cancer Biology Program brings together basic cancer biology and data science investigators to study and model—at the in vitro, in vivo, and in silico levels—the biology of malignant transformation and tumor progression. The main objective of this program is to foster basic discoveries of molecular and cellular mechanisms of cancer that are then used in other Hillman Cancer Center programs to advance translational and clinical research.
The specific aims of the Cancer Biology Program are to:
- Discover and elucidate cellular and molecular mechanisms of cancer initiation, progression and metastases
- Transfer program discoveries to other Cancer Center programs to allow application in the clinic in the form of novel preventive, diagnostic, or therapeutic approaches
- Facilitate collaborations within and outside Cancer Biology, for example, through seminars, regular meetings, focused symposia, and a yearly retreat.
Hormone Response and Cell Signaling
Both intracellular and intercellular signaling mechanisms in cancer have proven important therapeutic targets, leading to numerous approved therapeutic agents such as tamoxifen, trastuzumab, pembrolizumab, and dabrafenib. A focus area within this theme with significant breadth, depth, and expertise is the study of hormone response. These studies contribute to our fundamental knowledge of cancer and, with the identification and understanding of critical cancer regulatory pathways, can lead to novel therapeutic opportunities.
Drug Resistance and Metastasis
While significant progress has been made in understanding and treating primary disease, the research community has a limited understanding of drug resistance and metastasis. Our goals are to understand the basic mechanisms that drive the multi-step cellular process of metastasis, and to identify/characterize models which will help to identify therapeutic vulnerabilities that can be further studied in other HCC programs. These studies are of high significance since metastasis is the primary cause of both patient morbidity and mortality.
Cancer Biology members aim to understand cancer as a complex and constantly evolving system at multiple biological scales, using state-of-the-art experimental and computational modeling, multi-dimensional data analysis, and systems biology approaches. With the emergence of ‘big data’, data science is clearly an important and independent branch of scientific investigation. This work is best advanced when linked with the basic science groups, which can provide important data sets and biological questions to the data science group, which in turn provides new directions of investigation for the basic scientific study. This feed-forward collaboration creates high levels of interactivity with Themes 1 and 2, as well as strong connections with the other programs, thereby adding value to inter-programmatic collaboration.