Research

We are focused on a multifaceted research approach when it comes to melanoma mechanism and treatment discovery. This range of interests ultimately accumulates into 3 target areas: melanoma biomarkers, epigenetics, and model systems.

 Melanoma Biomarkers 

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Previous studies from our laboratory have allowed us to identify critical molecular pathways associated with melanoma development and progression. Those molecular pathways have also been demonstrated to be specifically altered in primary tissue specimens and serum of patients with melanoma. Current studies in our laboratory seek to evaluate the significance of these molecular markers to develop quantitative tools to improve the diagnostic and prognostic information available for patients diagnosed with melanoma. In addition, new studies are seeking to identify specific predictive biomarkers for patient responses to targeted therapies which would allow for personalized treatments for patients with advanced disease and those with high-risk disease.

 

Epigenetic Alterations in Melanoma and Other Malignancies

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Our laboratory has had a long-standing interest in defining critical epigenetic alterations in melanoma associated with disease progression and response to therapies. Previous research has used novel small molecule inhibitors of the p300 histone acetyltransferase to further define transcriptional mediators of melanoma progression and identify targeted therapies specific to these epigenetic alterations. Currently, we are interested in more specific targeting of epigenetic regulatory proteins such as through dual binding inhibition of the CoREST complex. Therapies are currently being evaluated using in vivo and in vitro model systems in order to optimize therapeutic responses in anticipation of studies in patients.

 

Development of Engineered Model Systems for Cancer Development and Progression

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 We have had a strong interest in partnering with physical scientists to explore complex cancer networks in more defined and structured ways. In particular, partnerships with colleagues in biomedical engineering have allowed us to develop novel tools to evaluate fundamental mediators of tumor development and progression in a controlled setting. Such systems, while complex in their design, provide specific and quantifiable frameworks for defining cellular and molecular interactions that take place during tumor development, progression, and metastasis. It is expected that these novel tools will allow us to more completely define critical components of the tumor-host microenvironment and mediators of these complex communication networks. Ultimately, this information will be used to develop targeted therapies for specific cancers using a personalized, patient-specific approach.