Liling Wan, Ph.D.

Research Interest

The research interests in our laboratory lie in the intersection of cancer biology and epigenetics. We focus on chromatin – the complex of DNA and histone proteins – and its regulatory network. Cancer genome studies revealed that at least 50% of human cancers harbor mutations in genes encoding chromatin-associated factors, suggesting widespread roles of chromatin misregulation in cancer. We strive to understand chromatin function and its dysregulation in human cancer, with a focus on addressing how chromatin-based mechanisms regulate cellular fate transition and plasticity that endow cancer cells with tumor-promoting potentials. We use a host of different approaches in genetics, epigenetics, biochemistry, genome-wide sequencing, bioinformatics and functional genomics to address these questions. We are also interested in leveraging our basic mechanistic discoveries for therapeutics development.

Robert Babak Faryabi, Ph.D.

Research Interest

Cancer is typically considered a genetic disease. However, recent progress in our understanding of epigenetic aberrations in cancer has challenged this view. Overarching goal of our lab is to understand epigenetic mechanisms of transcriptional addiction in cancer and exploit this information to advance cancer therapeutics.

To pursue this objective, we use cutting-edge chromatin conformation capture, high-content imaging, single-cell epigenomics, functional genomics, and combine these technologies with our expertise in computational sciences to systematically explore: i) how epigenetic control of gene expression is disrupted in cancer, ii) why transcriptional addiction can develop, and iii) how heterogeneity and plasticity of transcriptional dependencies enable drug resistance.

Brian C. Capell, M.D., Ph.D.

Research Interest

Epithelial tissues rely on a highly coordinated balance between self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation. Epigenetic mechanisms provide this precise control through the regulation of gene enhancer and transcriptional networks that establish and maintain cell fate and identity. Disruption of these pathways can lead to a loss of proliferative control, ultimately driving cancer.
Consistent with this, chromatin regulators are amongst the most frequently mutated genes in all of cancer, with an exceptionally high incidence of mutations in cancers of self-renewing epithelial tissues, such as squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). SCC is the most common type of cancer worldwide, affecting numerous epithelial tissues ranging from the skin and eyes to the lung, esophagus, and oropharynx. Despite this, precisely how disruption of epigenetic homeostasis may drive epithelial cancers such as SCC is poorly understood.
In the Capell Lab, we combine cutting-edge epigenetic technologies, human patient samples, primary cells, and mouse models in order to solve several fundamental unanswered questions:

  • How is the skin epigenome altered by intrinsic (i.e. aging) and extrinsic (i.e. ultraviolet radiation) environmental influences, and how do these changes contribute to disease?
  • How do chromatin regulatory enzymes function in both normal and diseased skin, particularly during carcinogenesis?
  • Can we target the epigenome with precision to treat disease?

Through this, we hope to identify new epigenetic targets for prevention and treatment of these potentially deadly cancers.

George Burslem, Ph.D.

Research Interest

The Burslem lab is interested in developing chemical tools to understand and modulate lysine post-translational modifications, specifically acetylation and ubiquitination. The laboratory is particularly interested in novel pharmacological approaches to modulate post-translational modifications which regulate gene expression and protein stability.

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