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Focusing on Treating Pediatric Cancers

Our laboratory is interested in how genetic programs governing embryonic development are exploited during cancer initiation and progression. After fertilization, a single cell must coordinate cell proliferation with cell migration and differentiation to produce approximately 100 trillion cells that are arranged in a highly ordered manner to generate the many different organs and tissues of the human body. The genetic and epigenetic programs controlling embryogenesis are often aberrantly activated or re-wired in human cancers to promote uncontrolled proliferation and metastasis. 

Research in our laboratory uses a unique combination of developmental biology and cancer biology techniques to identify novel therapeutics that kill cancer cells by targeting “reactivated” embryonic genetic programs. We use a number of methods in the lab to attack this problem, including:

  • embryology,
  • live-imaging,
  • genetics,
  • genomics and epigenetics, as well as
  • zebrafish pre-clinical cancer models,
  • human cell culture, and
  • analysis of clinical sample. 

Our laboratory has a focus on treating pediatric cancers, such as neuroblastoma and pediatric brain tumors, due to the known involvement of defective developmental pathways in cancer formation and their highly metastatic behavior.