The Oncobiology (OB) research group integrates a range of cross-disciplinary expertise that focuses on understanding and investigating multiple aspects of cancer, including diagnosis, treatment, signaling and metastasis. The five core research laboratories use complementary approaches to address key questions in cancer research with ongoing collaborations (both internal and international).
Cell Cycle and
Determining the molecular events leading to malignant cell transformation
Malignant transformation is a stepwise process involving the acquisition of multiple genetic and epigenetic alterations. The oncobiology (OB) unit is actively examining how these events lead to the disruption of essential processes inluding cell division, nutrient detection and cell signalling. Deciphering the regulatory events that drive malignant transformation represents a major challenge for systems biology. Our research program extends from basic studies in cell signaling and cell biology to pre-clinical and clinical studies. The OB unit utilizes a wide range of experimental approaches including a variety of molecular and cellular biology techniques, viral vectors, and high-throughput screening assays that include a broad range of cellular and genetic models. Using these approaches, the OB unit will identify the gene and protein networks that are associated with malignant transformation. Specifically, we wish to understand the normal growth and division control processes, and to determine how these processes may be altered resulting in malignant transformation.
Understanding the molecular determinants of cancer metastasis
Tumour metastatis is the leading cause of death from cancer, representing enormous clinical and social importance. The OB group is actively investigating the role played by key proteins (eg, the chemokine receptor CCR7 and the plasminogen receptor annexin A2 heterotetramer) in cancer cell invasion and metastasis. Using a wide range of in vitro and in vivo models, the OB group will investigate the contribution of these proteins to invasion, tumor growth, angiogenesis (blood vessel development) and metastasis. Understanding the molecular mechanisms by which cancer cells invade and metastasize will provide crucial tools for the development of novel therapies targeted at blocking the major contributor of death in cancer patients.
Identification of therapeutic targets, drug candidates and companion diagnostics
The future of cancer therapy relies on a detailed understanding of the molecular and genetic abnormalities that drive cancer, the availability of novel compounds to target such lesions and the appropriate use of companion diagnostics to pre-screen patients that are likely to respond to these drugs. The OB group will continue to identify new targets for therapeutic intervention in both cancer and stromal cells. The OB unit is driven to translate laboratory discoveries into clinical applications. This includes, novel FOXO activating and annexin A2 inactivating compounds each of which hold great potential for disease treatment. The clinical utility of novel targets identified by the OB group will also be extensively investigated. In collaboration with international clinical research groups and pharmaceutical companies we plan to validate and develop our discoveries in a clinical setting.