BIOMARKER IDENTIFICATION, THERAPY DISCOVERY AND TARGET VALIDATION
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Research

THE PROBLEM

Molecular and cellular mechanisms by which cancers initiate/progress and develop resistance to targeted therapies parallel those that prevent many tissues/organs from fully regenerating. By understanding what drives cancer progression/relapse and what prevents complete tissue regeneration, my laboratory (The Developmental Oncogene Lab) aims to develop novel tools and strategies to diagnose/treat cancer onset and progression.

THE APPROACH

I completed my doctoral training with Wylie Vale at the Salk Institute, where I characterized new mechanisms by which TGFbeta signaling is regulated at the surface of tumor and stem cells [1-3]. I completed my postdoctoral training with Richard Klemke at UCSD, where I identified and characterized PEAK1 kinase as a regulator of the cytoskeleton and cancer progression [4-6]. My independent research laboratory at CSUN (The Developmental Oncogene Lab) has established an essential role for eIF5A/PEAK1-dependent MAPK signaling during TGFbeta-mediated cancer progression [7,8]. We have also developed new biomarker identification methods [9] and identified ITGA1 as a new diagnostic/therapeutic target for improving pancreatic cancer outcomes [10,11]. These recent contributions to the fields of breast and pancreatic cancer synergize with our most recent methods development efforts aimed at identifying novel tumor cell vulnerabilities in complex cell systems and the tumor microenvironment that are engaged in response to targeted therapies. Work in my laboratory utilizes techniques in cellular/molecular biology, microscopy, multiplexing IF, hydrogel scaffolds, flow cytometry and vertebrate animals (including murine). We have active collaborations with researchers at Harvard (Brugge, Sorger and Gygi), Claremont BioSolutions (Doebler), UPenn (Tchou), Notre Dame (Panopoulos), Salk Institute (Gray) and UCSD (Bui and Bouvet). To support these research efforts, I have received extramural funding in total of >$1.76 M, including our recent R01-equivalent SC1 award (SC1GM121182). Based upon our recent work, I am now preparing to submit additional grant applications.