Understanding Cancer Starts With Basic Research

The mission of the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis is to identify genetic and epigenetic changes that contribute to cancer development, as well as the environmental causes of those changes. Studies aim to define the molecular mechanisms that control normal cell proliferation, differentiation, survival and genome maintenance in order to identify the processes that drive carcinogenesis. Research in the department is multidisciplinary and can be loosely categorized into three overall focus areas:



Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis
Basic mechanisms of carcinogenesis; findings relevant to new cancer targets and strategies for prevention and treatment.


 DNA Damage, Repair and Mutagenesis
Mechanisms of cellular responses to DNA damage, including programmed DNA damage and repair and its disruption during cancer development.
 Cancer Epigenetics
Epigenetic control of normal cell processes and cancer progression, including histone modifications, DNA methylation and development of drug therapies targeting chromatin.

Research Highlight

Researchers in Dr. Xuetong Shen’s lab are using the INO80 chromatin remodeling complex in yeast as a model system to study the function of actin in the nucleus. They recently showed that actin monomers in the INO80 complex play a role in the process of chromatin remodeling – challenging the dogma that actin functions through polymerization, and revealing a novel mechanism for nuclear actin.

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Learn more about the Shen lab