Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis

Defining the molecular mechanisms that drive cell proliferation, differentiation, survival and genome maintenance

Carcinogenesis refers to the multistep process by which cancer arises from normal cells and tissues. The overall goal of research in this area is to understand the basic mechanisms of carcinogenesis at the cellular and molecular levels, leading to new targets and strategies for cancer prevention and treatment. Areas under investigation in the Department of Epigenetics and  Molecular Carcinogenesis include:

  • Genetic susceptibility to cancers
  • Genetic, epigenetic and gene expression alterations accompanying cancer initiation and progression
  • Cell signaling pathways involved in cancer induction and progression
  • Regulation of cell proliferation, apoptosis and autophagy during carcinogenesis
  • Environmental factors involved in the etiology of cancer
  • The basis of cancer cell heterogeneity and the biology of cancer stem cells

Novel Transgenic Animal Models

Research in this area relies heavily on the development of genetically engineered animal models for investigating the stepwise molecular changes that occur during carcinogenesis, the function of key genes and gene variants in cancer development, and preclinical prevention and therapeutic studies. A number of existing models of cancer are being used for these mechanistic studies, including skin (both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer), mammary gland, thymus, oral cavity, pancreas and prostate. Novel mouse models are also being developed using state-of-the-art transgenic and knockout/knock-in technologies to study specific genes and pathways involved in cancer induction and progression. In addition, a unique zebrafish model is being developed to study the function of genes and pathways involved in melanoma development. 

The Center for Environmental and Molecular Carcinogenesis

Investigators working in this area are active participants in the Center for Environmental and Molecular Carcinogenesis (CEMC), one of the original centers of excellence established within the Institute for Basic Science.