Kunal Rai, Ph.D.
- Epigenetics Research
Our group studies the role of epigenome during cancer progression and therapeutic responses. We focus on understanding the changes in epigenome during cancer progression as well as identifying the epigenetic drivers that drive the evolution of cancer cells. Further, we are trying to identify the epigenetic basis for response to various prominent therapeutic strategies in different cancer types.
Cancer cells acquire genetic and epigenetic alterations that increase fitness and drive progression through multiple steps of tumor evolution. In recent years, we have made great progress towards understanding these driver events at the genetic level. However, our understanding of the extent and nature of epigenetic alterations in cancers and their functional contribution is lagging.
With the recent advances in the epigenomics field, now we can start building epigenome maps from tumor tissues with different genetic and clinical features to better understand how epigenetic processes contribute to human tumor biology. Using these tools, we have recently characterized epigenome changes in melanoma progression.
We are currently mapping epigenomic maps from genomically and clinically characterized tumor samples as well as those that have been treated with different therapeutic agents. Further, various new tools in genome editing as well as advances in screening methods provide opportunities to discover new genes involved in the carcinogenesis process. We have utilized these to identify factors playing roles in melanoma progression and continue to utilize similar approaches in other cancers as well as different settings to find potential therapeutic targets.
The Rai Laboratory is in the Department of Genomic Medicine, which is located on South Campus.