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 being investigated by Department of Epigenetics and  Molecular Carcinogenesis faculty 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 and normal development
  • Environmental factors involved in the etiology of cancer
  • The basis of cancer cell heterogeneity and the biology of cancer and other 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 non-melanoma skin cancer), mammary gland, thymus, oral cavity, pancreas, prostate and blood cancers. Novel mouse models are also being developed using state-of-the-art transgenic and knockout/knock-in technologies (CRISPR/Cas9) to study specific genes and pathways involved in cancer induction and progression. 

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.

Faculty Publications in this Research Area


  • A molecular portrait of high-grade ductal carcinoma in situ. Cancer Res. 2015
  • E2F1 responds to ultraviolet radiation by directly stimulating DNA repair and suppressing carcinogenesis. Cancer Res. 2014
  • Mechanism of suppression of chromosomal instability by DNA polymerase POLQ. PLoS Genet. 2014
  • DNA-damage-induced differentiation of leukaemic cells as an anti-cancer barrier. Nature. 2014
  • Ectopic TBX1 suppresses thymic epithelial cell differentiation and proliferation during thymus organogenesis. Development. 2014