Understanding the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that control cell division, genomic stability, and gene expression in cancer cells.
For more than a decade, researchers have been identifying genes that affect the likelihood of cancer. With the complete genome map in hand, they are finding many more such genes, and exploring the detailed mechanisms by which they act. In addition, there is growing recognition that many cancers show "epigenetic" changes, in which DNA is chemically altered in ways that change its expression in the cell, without changing the underlying code.
Many of these changes disrupt normal cellular processes such as cell division and the quality control mechanisms that usually insure accurate replication of DNA and control growth. As cancer disrupts these systems, it creates a wide variety of cancer cells, making treatment more difficult. The members of the Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics Program explore aspects of this disruption, both at the genetic level and the epigenetic level and through its effect on cellular mechanisms.
The program members of the program come from seven basic-science departments, four clinical departments, and two public-health departments, and their work revolves around three major themes.