Thematic Research Programs

Lipid Signaling and Metabolism in Cancer

Program Leader: Chiara Luberto, PhD

In order to grow and to spread, cancer cells rewire the way in which they use nutrients. It is now clear that these changes in tumor cell metabolism influence how a cancer develops in a patient and how a cancer responds to treatment. Our Cancer Lipids and Metabolism Research Program brings together cancer biologists and physician scientists with a shared interest in cancer cell metabolism. Through new discoveries, scientists in this program seek to exploit new knowledge of how cancer cells use nutrients with the goal of translating their findings to new ways to prevent and treat cancer. Exciting advances being made by members of the program includes:

  • Discovery of metabolic pathways used by mutated cancer genes in tumor growth and metastases
  • Identification of metabolic enzymes promoting tumor growth and developing drugs against them
  • Avancement of knowledge on how cancer cell metabolism helps tumors evade immune detection

Oncogenic Drivers and Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis

Program Leaders: Jingfang Ju, PhD and Ute Moll, MD

Cancer develops in patients from cells that suffer mutation in genes that are essential in regulating how a cell grows in response to its local environment. Damage in these cancer-causing genes (i.e., p53, KRAS) or ‘oncogenes’ are necessary for tumors to develop and are extensively studied for their role in cancer. Our Oncogenic Drivers and Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis Program brings together cancer biologists and physician scientists with a shared interest in understanding how specific mutations and deregulation of oncogenes cause cancer and influence how a tumor cell behaves. This includes exploiting knowledge of oncogene drivers for the discovery of new drug targets for cancer treatment. Specifically, one of our research projects focuses on determining which tumor types require oncogenic mutant p53 and developing therapeutic strategies to overcome this dependence.

Imaging, Bioinformatics and Engineering Sciences

Program Leader: Wei Zhao, PhD

Cancer imaging and information science is revolutionizing the way in which cancers are detected, diagnosed and treated. Much of this progress has been facilitated by advances in computer science and machine learning or ‘artificial intelligence’. The Imaging, Bioinformatics, and Engineering Sciences Program brings together basic and physician scientists with expertise in these three disciplines with the collective aim to advance new technologies for earlier detection, improved diagnostics, and novel treatments of cancer. Ongoing work in the program includes:

  • Improved detection technology of small and aggressive breast tumors in younger women
  • Early detection of lung and colorectal cancer using ultra-low dose ‘virtual’ imaging computer tomography technologies
  • Integration of pathology and radiology image analysis for minimally invasive and real-time monitoring of patient responses to investigational agents for cancer treatment and prevention