The Cancer Biology Program has been renamed the Cell Signaling and Metabolism Program. The program consists of 34 research members and 22 clinical members representing 16 basic science and clinical departments.
The goal of the program is to better understand the biological mechanisms of cancer development and progression and to use these findings to facilitate enhanced diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Expertise of program members falls into two broad categories: new discovery (multi-omics), and signaling pathways in cancer cells and in microenvironment cells. Members focus on multiple different cancer types including pancreas, gastrointestinal, liver, lung, prostate, bladder, brain, and head and neck cancers. Investigators also focus on understanding the signaling and metabolic alterations associated with genetic and molecular changes that drive cancer initiation and progression to metastasis.
Four Theme Groups have evolved based on member expertise and research focus:
- Epigenomic Deconvolution Theme
- Metastasis and Cancer Progression Theme
- Data Mining Theme Metabolism Theme
- Epigenomic Deconvolution Theme
Epigenomic Deconvolution Theme
This group meets monthly and uses epigenomic deconvolution approaches to identify the histological cell type that corresponds to altered gene expression within a heterogeneous tumor. The goal is to find common patterns of gene expression in cell subtypes between different cancer and microenvironment cell types. The group includes several members from other programs in the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center as well. Moreover, monthly meetings are centered on presentation by trainees, primarily graduate students. The tumor types represented in the group are pancreas, bladder, prostate, breast, head and neck, and glioma. The group has been productive in generating both new discoveries in the form of manuscripts and in acquiring joint project funding.
Metastasis and Cancer Progression Theme
This group meets on a regular basis and focuses on mechanisms, pathways, and cell-cell interactions associated with metastasis and progression to therapeutic resistant disease. Interactions between members have led to key publications and joint funding. The group has focused previously on bone metastasis of both breast and prostate cancer. Interest has expanded to other bone-tropic tumors, as well as other metastatic sites. In addition, members have focused on epithelial to mesenchymal transition and pathways that regulate cancer cell invasion.
Data Mining Theme
This group facilitates new discovery by working with members to understand how best to analyze large public databases, including The Cancer Genome Atlas. Members include international experts on evaluating TCGA data and other large databases to identify targets of opportunity for future bench-work study. Meetings involve focused discussions of various methods and strategies for searching and evaluating large data as well as specific targets and pathways that may of value to understand in several cancer types. This work has allowed researchers to perform high throughput global genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of human cancers to foster new discovery of key mechanisms.
This group has formed due to the increasing use of metabolism studies to inform about mechanisms associated with tumor initiation and progression. This group essentially involves members who have involved the DLDCCC Metabolomics Shared Resource in their studies. As use of metabolism data in cancer has helped to inform on common metabolic and signaling alterations that are pan-cancer, this theme group will function to support each of the Themes and goals going forward. This includes addressing the biology associated with health care disparities.
Translation of Research
Program members work closely with the Disease Working Groups and other Centers at Baylor to enhance communication between basic scientists and clinician-scientists in order to translate basic science findings to the clinics. This involves key interactions between each of the four program theme groups, the Disease Working Groups, the Center for Drug Discovery, and the Therapeutic Innovations Center.